Everyone, it seems, loves cheese. And, with so many varieties of Michigan cheese, there’s a lot to love.
Smart parents recognize the value of cheese for its considerable nutritional status, but also for its ability to make virtually every food more palatable to even the pickiest of eaters. Kids will gobble up just about any vegetable if it’s covered in cheese. That’s a win-win because not only are children reaping the benefits of healthful vegetables, they’re getting protein, calcium, magnesium and potassium, courtesy of the cheese itself.
Cheese is a nutrient-dense dairy food, according nutrition experts, and it’s often well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. “Cheese is a good source of calcium, protein and phosphorus, three nutrients particularly important to help build and maintain healthy bones,” says the U.S. Dairy site, Undeniably Dairy.
A nutritious staple for the whole family, cheese delivers benefits for every age group. Some studies say that eating cheese right after a meal or as a snack even helps reduce tooth decay.
When you select Michigan cheese for your family’s meals and lunchboxes, you’re also supporting an important economy in our state. But how much does your family know about cheese? Read on for some fun facts about cheese to chew on.
- There are as many as 2,000 different varieties of cheese, but they can all be classified in eight varieties: blue, hard, pasta filata, processed, semi-hard, semi-soft, soft and fresh, and soft-ripened. Who knew?
- Only four simple ingredients are needed for natural cheese: milk, salt, a starter culture and an enzyme called rennet.
- About one-third of all milk produced every year in the United States goes toward making cheese.
- The average American eats about 23 pounds of cheese each year. That sounds like a lot until you consider that it’s actually only about an ounce a day.
- Michigan has some 1,800 dairy farms and nearly 90 dairy processing plants. Each of our state’s 424,000 dairy cows produces about 26,340 pounds of milk a year.
- 97% of Michigan dairy farms are family owed, while only 10 of Michigan’s 83 countries do not have a dairy farm.
- Bonus fact: Virtually all of our state’s dairy cows bed down on sand — which is not only more comfortable than a hard floor, but also dry and cool, with the added bonus of being cleaned and reused.
Top-quality Michigan cheese tour
One great thing about cheese is that you can find it virtually everywhere — even gas stations and convenience stores often have kid-friendly string cheese for sale.
But if you’re really looking to expand your culinary horizons — and expose your family to the joys that extend beyond string cheese — head to one of Michigan’s many specialty cheese shops. There are so many, you could practically do a cheese tour of Michigan.
Best known, of course, is Pinconning, which is home to a unique version of Colby that people can’t get enough of. In fact, this tiny town two hours north of Detroit is known as “the cheese capital of Michigan.”
Other specialty cheese shops include Petosky Cheese, Williams Cheese Company in Linwood, and Artigiano Artisan Cheese Shoppe in Bay City. Visit Frankenmuth Cheese Haus and see why people drive hundreds of miles for their house-made chocolate cheese.
Andrulis Farm Cheese Dairy in tiny Fountain (near Lake Michigan) has been producing fresh Baltic cheese since 1940, with few changes to the original recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Detroit has a slew of cheese shops, from the aptly named Detroit Cheese Company to the colorful DeVries & Co. in Eastern Market. Finally, the Cheese Lady has eight locations throughout lower Michigan, including Farmington and Rochester locations.
Here’s one last fact that will come as absolutely no surprise to any parent anywhere: the nation’s favorite cheese recipe? Why, macaroni and cheese, of course.
Visit Milk Means more at milkmeansmore.org to learn more about cheese and dairy farming and to find great recipes, including no fewer than six different mac and cheese varieties.