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Craft creameries on the Central Coast thrive despite U.S. cheese surplus

Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 21:46:34-05

The U.S. is experiencing a cheese surplus of 1.4 billion pounds, according to the USDA, but Central Coast creameries that specialize in artisan cheeses are seeing an increase in sales.

A recent report from the USDA indicates the surplus of cheese may be linked to changing consumer preference toward foreign and artisan cheese, as well as the fact that dairy farmers have not decreased production.

The owner of Central Coast Creamery in Templeton said his business was thriving and the cheese surplus witnessed on the national stage has had no influence on CCC sales.

Stepladder Creamery just north of Cambria is only six years old, but business surrounding this locally made artisan cheese is booming.

“I feel like people are seeking out that type of cheese versus something produced in a factory where there’s less authenticity,” said Stepladder Creamery Business Development Manager Jill Hammond.

In a January letter to President Donald Trump, the American Dairy Coalition calls attention to the record 1.4 billion pounds of surplus cheese currently sitting in U.S. cold storage.

Real milk sales have fallen in recent years due to non-dairy milks.

But according to the USDA, milk production has increased by 13 percent in the past 10 years.

According to the California Dairy Association, dairies in the state ship 17 billion pounds of milk annually.

Milk lasts longer in cheese form, which may be why so much of that milk is being turned into cheese.

The result of the cheese surplus, as is the case with nearly every good, is a decline in what the cheese is worth.

While the manager of a Ralph’s grocery store in San Luis Obispo said he’s seen an increase in the purchase of exotic cheeses, his store still receives regular shipments of the big brand cheeses.

As dairy dynasties see a dip in profit margins, craft creameries take a big cut of the cheese sales.

“We’re small batch, family run, beautiful farm setting, so I think people connect with the food and want to see where the food comes from and that’s what sets us apart,” Hammon said.