Wisconsin hosts largest technical dairy competition in the world

MADISON, WISCONSIN (AP) — The largest technical cheese, butter and yogurt competition in the world started on Tuesday in Wisconsin, with a record 3,667 entries from 26 nations.

The 55 judges taste, sniff and inspect the 132 classes of dairy products during the biennial World Championship Cheese Contest. The judges include cheese graders, cheese buyers, dairy science professors, and researchers from 19 nations and 14 states.

Rebekah Sweeney, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which organises the event, said their judges do a more detailed evaluation than other cheese competitions, with a 100-point scoring system that looks at 36 potential defects. The last time the competition was held in 2018, a hard sheep’s milk cheese called Esquirrou made in France at Mauleon Fromagerie won top honours. It is imported by Savencia Cheese USA.

One judge and 30 people from a Japanese university could not attend because the university didn’t allow international travel due to the new coronavirus, Sweeney said.

There will be extra hand-washing stations and hand sanitisers for the judges “out of an abundance of good intention,” she said. Otherwise, the virus was not expected to affect the competition, she said.

Steve Stettler holds a wheel of baby Swiss cheese at the biennial World Championship Cheese. PHOTO: AP