All cheese is basically the same thing: coagulated milk curds. The milk might come from cows, sheep, goats, water buffalo (as in Mozzarella di Bufala), even yaks or camels. (There is also plant-based vegan cheese, but that’s another story.) The curds are usually compressed and often cured — that is, ripened or matured — and typically salted. Then the fun begins: Cheeses may be wrapped in cloth, walnut or chestnut leaves, or bark, among other things; coated in wax or ash, or even wool; washed in brine, beer, wine, or various alcohols; inoculated with mold (to make blue cheese); smoked; colored; flavored with truffles, nuts, or many different kinds of herbs or spices; aged for various periods in a variety of ways… Those simple salted milk curds, in other words, are a kind of blank slate for cheesemakers. There are thousands of kinds of cheese — the annual International Cheese Awards in England showcased 5,000 entries from 27 countries last year — and an ever-increasing number are either produced in or imported to America.
Despite the many choices, we tend to fall back on a small number of familiar examples: Cheddar, Mozzarella, Swiss, Brie, even good old “American” — though sales of that highly processed, preservative-laden variety have slowed in recent years as millennial consumers turn increasingly to fancier, sometimes artisanal alternatives. Which cheeses do we like the most in this country, and which do we like the least? As with all foods, preferences are a matter of taste, but there are some clear winners and losers on our national cheeseboard.
To determine the most and least favorite cheeses in America, 24/7 Wall St. consulted data from the USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, a survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by the meal-planning app Innit, and the Food Business News, Cheese Market News, Time magazine, Chowhound, and Ranker websites.