Cheese Caves: America's 1.2 Billion Pounds of Hidden Cheese

The United States government owns 1.4 billion pounds of cheese. Now, they don’t store this in warehouses or storage facilities. They keep this cheese hundreds of feet below ground in converted limestone mines in Missouri. The “cheese caves” are kept at a perfect 36 degrees Fahrenheit and are home to the massive stockpiles of government=owned cheese.
The United States’ cheese hoard began in the 1970s during a national dairy shortage. At this time, President Jimmy Carter decided to pour money into the dairy industry so that production could increase and so that the 30% inflation on dairy products could go down. The government provided over 2 billion dollars to the dairy industry, but this primed them for overproduction. Whatever cheese was not sold on the market would therefore be purchased by the government to keep prices low. By 1980, the United States government had bought over 500 million pounds of cheese.

The first solution for this excess of cheese was to package it into cheese blocks for distribution. These cheese blocks were called “government cheese,” and the Reagan Administration distributed 60 million five-pound blocks of cheese for pickup by people at food banks and community centers. This was a temporary solution, but it did not last.

By 2019, the government found itself storing cheese blocks in numbers greater than ever seen before. The United States now possessed 1.4 billion pounds of cheese, and they needed a place to store it. They decided on converting limestone mines in Missouri to store the cheese. However interesting this is to us, it actually reveals a larger problem in the United States.

The government is sustaining an industry that is clearly not growing on its own. In fact, Americans are consuming just a little over half the amount of dairy they were thirty years ago. In addition, 36% of Americans are lactose intolerant. These statistics display how the government should ideally stop funding dairy production in the United States at the level that they are. The cheese caves deep underground are a fascinating and little-known aspect of our history, but they also reveal an issue that most of the population is unaware of.

    • Cheese cave! (Deseret)

St. Francis High School