100s Of Feet Below Missouri Sits A 1.4-Billion-Pound Store Of “Government Cheese”

government cheese

The federal government of the United States hid a treasure trove consisting of 1.4 billion pounds of cheese lying hundreds of feet beneath Springfield, Missouri. The treasure trove is located a few hundred feet below the city. Why? To put it simply, this is a somewhat drawn-out tale.

According to The Farmlink Project, the unusual beginnings of “Government Cheese” stretch back to the 1970s, when dairy scarcity and a 30 percent inflation increase on its connected products prompted a gold rush for cheese by the United States government.

When President Jimmy Carter was in charge of the situation, those in charge concluded that the most effective approach to solving the issue was to give the dairy industry in the United States a cash infusion.

The massive inflow of government funds, totaling $2 billion, was successful (if anything, it was too successful). Dairy workers produce as much product as possible, confident that the government would purchase any excess.

The cheese was of special interest as it would have been better suited for storage. By the early 1980s, the government had approximately 227 million kilograms (500 million pounds) of cheese on its hands. The cheese was particularly interesting because it would be better suited for storage.

According to anthropologist Bradley N. Jones writes in The Oxford Companion to Cheese that large quantities of dairy products were stockpiled in more than 150 warehouses in 35 different states. It was not long before the media gained wind of a scandal.

At a period when many families were forced to rely on government assistance in the form of food stamps, mountains of spoiled dairy products were allowed to sit there untouched.

The sour taste felt by the American people would soon be replaced with something between Velveeta and cheese singles, as the Special Dairy Distribution Program that President Ronald Reagan enacted handed out 14 million kilograms (30 million pounds) of cheese to charitable organizations. Even though the majority of the contribution was moldy, it was nonetheless given to those hungry.

The answer was far from ideal, not only due to the cheese’s dubious appropriateness for human eating but also because it began to disrupt sales for the dairy sector, which was the source of the cheese.

However, it was certainly a better option than a USDA official suggested to the Washington Post, which was to dump it in the ocean, which the USDA official stated was “Probably the cheapest and most practical thing would be to dump it in the ocean.”

Instead, it became a sign of social class because families under financial strain used the sliceable and quickly melted dairy products to produce grilled sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. In the 1990s, the federal government was finally able to get out of the cheese industry, but that was not the end of cheese held by the federal government.

In 2016, the government amassed more than 600 million kilos, equivalent to 1.4 billion pounds, of surplus cheese. It prompted the hoarding to begin all over again. In Missouri, the stocks are stored in converted limestone mines called “cheese caves.” These caverns are located hundreds of feet below the earth.

Although it may seem like an unlikely place to locate a stockpile of dairy goods comparable to that of Smaug, the logic behind this seeming insanity: the caverns’ consistently cold temperatures ensure that all of the cheeses remain in excellent condition; the caverns need to be maintained, and moving the extra product to a nation where dairy consumption is declining is expected to be more challenging. However, this may delay the rot for a little bit longer.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) enthusiasm to have people eat cheese was illustrated in 2010 when a government giveaway was used to bail out the then-failing pizza restaurant Domino’s to keep Americans eating cheese. The USDA’s goal was to get people to eat cheese.

The continual overproduction of the dairy sector, driven by seasonal increases in milk and dips in sales, is pushing the requirement for cheese caves since converting the extra product into something storable and with a long shelf-life is a method of decreasing waste. Nevertheless, this trend is worrisome in terms of the repercussions for the environment as well as health.

Getting food to impoverished families is commendable; nevertheless, the choice to push cheese goods to a society where 41.9 percent of people are fat appears shortsighted from the standpoint of human health. Dairy production adds to emissions and the rising climate problem as its farting, burping cows belch out the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

For the time being, the domestic reserve of cheddar, Swiss, and American cheese is still in existence. Dairy producers continue to explore novel ways to enhance the purchase and consumption of cheese, and it appears that anything could be on the table.

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