While no one really knows who made the first cheese, ancient legends say an Arab merchant discovered it when he placed milk into a pouch made out of a sheep’s stomach. But the earliest findings based on archaeological records date back to 5500 BCE in Kuyavia, Poland. Thanks to this discovery, we can enjoy tons of dishes with this dairy byproduct. But did you know the US Government has its own stash of cheese?
The US government owns about 1.4 billion pounds of cheese. USDA has been paying to stockpile cheese so that prices of dairy products will be protected.
Where Do They Stash the Cheese?
This massive American cheese storage can be found hundreds of feet underground in Springfield, Missouri. It is also known as the cheese cave. It holds tons of surplus cheese that goes back to the seventies. About 2 million square feet of warehouses store the government’s cheese.
It is placed underground for ideal storage. The temperature is definitely colder at a constant 58 degrees Fahrenheit. This reduces energy consumption and overall costs compared to storing it above ground. (Source: The Farmlink Project)
How Do Dairy Farmers Store Their Cheese?
The history of this cheese storage starts in the 1970s. It began as an effort to save the besieged dairy farmers from depression. The government, led by President Jimmy Carter, started to subsidize the poor by allocating a budget of two billion USD over the next four years to the dairy industry.
This decision motivated the dairy farmers, and knew that the government would surely put their monetary assistance if they had overproduced dairy products. They intentionally started to overproduce dairy products.
Farmers then decided to convert the dairy products produced into cheese because of their longevity for storage than other dairy products. Thanks to the program President Carter started, the government owned around 500 million pounds of cheese by the 1980s. (Source: The Farmlink Project)
What is TEFAP?
The Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, also known as TEFAP, was created in 1981 when the government realized that the cheeses they kept were starting to get moldy. They needed to be disposed of immediately. The government started to give away cheese to community centers at no cost. This was called the Government Cheese and has been the totem of American Culture.
Over time, due to overproduction and loads of pounds on stockpiles of cheese, the government needed to start the distribution of cheese not just to the poor, animal shelters, or schools. They started talking to different fast-food chains to encourage them to add more cheese to their products. This led to the GOT MILK campaign, where celebrities wore milk mustaches. (Source: The Farmlink Project)
The campaign was intended to encourage consumers to drink more milk as a way to dispose of the surplus of the government’s dairy products.
Who Maintains the Cheese Storage Space Now?
Today, the cheese storage space under Springfield, Missouri, still exists. However, the responsibility of ownership and maintenance of the cheese surplus is now divided between the government and private contractors. One of the private corporations is Kraft. They have leased about four hundred thousand square feet for storage since 2008. (Source: Good)