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Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day with these important cheese facts

mmm... cheese
mmm... cheese

April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Day here in the United States which is naturally leading a lot of websites covering the Chicago restaurant that's selling a $100 grilled cheese sandwich. But to really understand National Grilled Cheese Day you need to put the grilled cheese situation in context.

Here's a chart of American cheese consumption over time, drawn from US Department of Agriculture statistics:

Cheese_time

As you can see, consumption of American cheese has stagnated over the past generation while consumption of cottage cheese has actually declined. But the increasingly sophisticated cheese pallet of the US consumer has led to surging demand for "other" cheese that's powered overall cheese consumption upward.

And that's a lucky thing for America's dairy farmers. Along with the rise of yogurt, growing cheese consumption is a big reason that total milkfat consumption is way up even as Americans are drinking less milk:

Milk

And of course this kind of cheese surge couldn't take place without significant innovations in the food system. The USDA has historically focused on boosting cheese consumption through programs to encourage people to eat more pizza (a totally real thing) but grilled cheese sandwiches could be a fruitful venue for future exploration. This weekend an upscale grilled cheese specialty restaurant is opening in the nation's capital just steps from the White House.