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Why The US Government Has Kept Over 1 Billion Pounds Of Cheese In Missouri Caves For Decades

This stash of cheese is hundreds of feet below ground and has very specific purposes

Andrew Martin
4 min readOct 21, 2022

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Except for perhaps the lactose intolerant, cheese is a food that has been traditionally enjoyed by a significant number of people for around 4,000 years. It’s such an important staple of the American diet, along with its heavy impact on the dairy industry, that the United States Government has long kept a massive surplus of cheese on hand. In fact, there is currently around 1.4 billion pounds of fromage being stored in caves in Missouri.

The origins of our great cheese holdings goes back to the 1949 Dairy Product Price Support Program implemented by the USDA. It supported dairy farmers in times when the price of milk dropped by buying up copious amounts at a stable price when the national cost dropped to certain levels. This prevented the milk market from ever having the bottom completely drop out. Once the milk price stabilized, the government would start to sell off its surplus.

The surplus was ultimately largely converted to cheese to help a problem with the Price Support program where the measures that were being taken effectively helped unnaturally contain the price of milk within a certain range.

In the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter further worked to provide dairy farmers with support by raising the price of milk and having the government buy and store it. Since milk has a certain shelf life, a workaround was devised to turn as much surplus milk as possible into cheese. So much of this excess cheese was produced that a new problem of figuring out what to do with it came about.

Coming to be commonly called “government cheese,” many people with limited incomes or needing assistance received allocations of this resource. It was still not enough to get rid of it fast enough. Starting in the 1990s, the government began seeking deals with private companies like fast food restaurants to unload more cheese.

Although there are around 1.4 billion pounds of excess cheese in the form of large wheels kept in cold storage limestone caves hundreds of feet below the ground outside of Springfield, Missouri just off…

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Andrew Martin

Dabbler in history, investing & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about history, diversity, culture, sports, investing and crypto.