Milwaukee • The national cheese spotlight this week turns to Wisconsin — where else? — as judges get ready to sniff, taste and touch thousands of samples in the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
The national contest alternates each year with the world cheese-off. Judging is Tuesday and Wednesday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, with winners announced Thursday.
Some things to know about the contest:
THIS SNACKDOWN IS BRUTAL
Entries for the national competition are up 22 percent, to a record 2,303, as cheesemakers recognize the marketing value of winning big competitions. Case in point: Emmi Roth USA says sales have increased 20 percent for their Grand Cru Surchoix, made in Monroe, Wisconsin, since they won the World Championship Cheese Contest in 2016. It was the first time an American cheese won the title since 1988. The exposure is why FireFly Farms in Accident, Maryland, decided to enter two cheeses this year into the contest for the first time. The farm, which distributes its goat cheeses mostly in the Mid-Atlantic area, has won more than 100 awards in other contests since 2002, according to the company's director of sales and marketing, Andrea Cedro. Entering competitions introduces their cheeses to new retailers, buyers and customers, gets them valuable feedback from judges and often an increase in sales, she said. This year's competition includes 25 first-time companies.