Demand for easy, time-saving strategies and cheese's
utility in adding rich flavor to quick-serve meals (like soups,
salads, pastas, sandwiches, cooked vegetables, eggs, and countless
other dishes) are driving the rise in cheese consumption since 1970.
The boom in eating out and ordering in parallels cheese's use as
a major ingredient in food manufacturing (roughly 60 percent of
our cheese now comes through these channels). For at-home consumption,
resealable bags of shredded cheeses—including cheese blends
tailored for use in Italian and Mexican recipes—and individually
wrapped cheese sticks and baby Goudas have made cheese even more
of a household staple.
Average U.S. cheese consumption nearly tripled between
1970 and 2003, from 11 pounds per person to 31 pounds. In 2000 (the
latest year for which nutrient data are available), cheese contributed
26 percent of the calcium in the U.S. diet (up from 11 percent in
1970), 12 percent of the saturated fat (up from 5 percent in 1970),
and 16 percent of the sodium (up from 6 percent in 1970).
Mozzarella—the main cheese in pizza—overtook
Cheddar in 2002 to become America's favorite cheese. In 2003, Mozzarella
consumption reached 9.6 pounds per person, more than 8 times the
1970 level. From 1970 to 2003, consumption of Cheddar cheese increased
62 percent to 9.4 pounds per capita, making it America's second
favorite cheese. Cream cheese overtook Swiss in the late 1980s—in
part due to an explosion in the popularity of bagels—to become
America's third favorite cheese, at 2.3 pounds consumed per person
in 2003 (nearly 4 times the 1970 level).
Will U.S. per capita cheese consumption continue growing
as it has since 1970? Projections by ERS and others say that the
rate may well slow, mostly because of the aging of the population—the
elderly generally eat out less frequently and eat less pizza and
cheeseburgers. Likely to continue increasing, however, are the diversity,
quality, and availability of cheeses in both supermarkets and specialty
shops dedicated to artisanal and farmhouse cheeses.
This article is drawn from...
ERS annually calculates the amount of cheese and several
hundred other foods available for consumption in the U.S. This series
provides data back to 1909 for many commodities and is the only
continuous source of data on food and nutrient availability in the