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Cheese Facts: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

cheese facts

What would we do without cheese? We wouldn’t have cheeseburgers or fondue, mac & cheese, or cheesecake. Get ready for some fun cheese facts that will make even Alex Trebek jealous. 

After milk and butter, cheese is the most important dairy product in our diet, and there are hundreds of distinct types of cheese, each with their unique traits.

With so many options, it’s only natural that there are countless stories and cheese facts to explore. Here are some interesting things we thought you’d like to know.

1. What are the most popular types of cheese in the world?

According to Taste Atlas, where people get to vote for their favorite foods, here are the most popular types of cheese on the planet. 

The sweet Mascarpone takes the tenth spot, followed by the Camembert de Normandie, the pungent Gorgonzola, the soft and tangy Brie de Meaux, and the Hollandaise Gouda.

The fifth spot is well represented by the Parmigiano Reggiano, followed by Cheddar, and Ricotta in the third place. The runner-up is the Greek Feta cheese. 

The most famous cheese on earth is Mozzarella, an Italian classic that makes its way into popular dishes like pizza. 

2. What is the most popular type of cheese in the US?

Awfully under-represented American cheese holds no special place in the world’s top list, but there’s quality to be found in the country too, and we should mention the most popular cheese in America.

Keep in mind that the cheese industry in the States is far younger than its European counterpart. Countries like France and Italy have been making cheese for millennia. 

The Top 5 American cheeses are Baby Swiss, from Ohio, in fifth place, the southern specialty Pimento Cheese in fourth place, while Wisconsin’s Colby Jack, and Colby take the third and second places. 

Finally, the most popular cheese in the United States is — Monterey’s own Pepper Jack.

3. Was cream cheese invented in Philadelphia?

New York’s own William A. Lawrence developed the extra creamy cheese in the style of the famous Swiss Neufchatel around 1872. The cheese got its name after Mr. Lawrence shipped the cheese to Philly to be packaged and shipped to customers. 

Legend also has it that the naming was just a marketing ploy because at the time the Philadelphia region was well known for the quality of its dairy farms.

Cream Cheese is made by combining milk and cream and should have at least 33% fat content. For purists, cream cheese is not actually cheese, since it’s not matured in any way, but there are lots of other fresh cheeses out there to back up the creamy cheese as a worthy ambassador for the category.

4. Cheese was discovered by accident.

Thousands of years ago someone stored fresh milk in a cow’s stomach type-of pouch, where the milk came in contact with rennet, the enzyme that breaks up the liquid separating its solids. Cheese was born.

Although almost a miraculous transformation, it comes with a cost. In some cases, you need 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. In the past, when milk was extremely perishable, it seemed like a good way of preserving milk and its nutrients, today, a 10:1 ratio is not what we would call efficient by modern standards. But it sure is tasty!

5. Is unpasteurized cheese illegal in the US?

Cheese made with raw milk can have harmful bacteria; on the other hand, pasteurized milk makes perfectly safe cheese; that’s a fact, but it’s not the whole story.

How can you explain that people have been making cheese with unpasteurized milk for centuries without health problems? Actually, the tastiest and better-known French cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk, including the authentic Camembert, Brie, and Roquefort.

The United States has some of the strictest laws for unpasteurized cheese, as the FDA won’t allow importing or producing it. Although you may notice it being sold in farmer’s markets across the US. That’s because you can still buy cheese made out of raw milk (unpasteurized milk) in the US legally as long as it is cured for at least 60 days.

Did we miss any cheese facts?

Exploring all the types of cheese available in the market is an exciting adventure. From mild cheeses to spicy cheese and strongly aromatic renditions, there’s a type of cheese to every palate. 

Nibble on it or cook with it but make cheese part of your life. Share your new cheese knowledge with friends and family over a beautiful cheese platter and don’t forget the wine!

Let us know if we missed any cheese facts and we’ll add them here. Also, are you a curious foodie? Then check out this collection of fun butter facts next.

Chef Deno

Follow my journey as I explore food culture around the world - easily from the comfort of your own home. Proud of your food scene? I travel often and we can plan to meet up so you can share the food culture in your town.

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