California's cheese production, which doubled over the past decade, hit a new record in 2004 as the state's production closed in on the two billion-pound mark. Reported growth in 2004 - 163 million pounds - was the single largest annual production increase in the state's history.

According to preliminary estimates from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), California's production of natural cow's milk cheese reached a record 1.994 billion pounds in 2004, an 8.9 percent increase over 2003.

California milk production also reached a record high in 2004, totaling 36.4 billion pounds, a 2.9 percent increase over 2003, according to CDFA. California is the nation's leading milk producer and nearly half of California's milk supply goes to cheese production. (It takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.)

"California has the country's most dynamic dairy industry and continues to set milk and cheese production records each year," said Stan G. Andre, California Milk Advisory Board CEO. "A study last year showed that 40 percent of California's milk is now going out-of-state, mainly in the form of cheese and butter. In addition, California has supplied almost half of the increase in cheese consumption in this country over the past decade."

Today, California has four of the world's 10 largest cheese plants, including the world's largest single-site plant. California produces one out of every five pounds of cheese made in the U.S.

California currently is the country's second largest cheese producer and industry experts project that the state will pass Wisconsin in total cheese production within a few years. California also produces the most butter, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese and nonfat dry milk.

Source: Association Release