How Big is the U.S. Cheese Stockpile?
As of August 2022, the U.S. had 1.5 billion pounds of cheese in cold storage across the country. That’s around $3.4 billion worth of cheese.
Using data from USDA, this graphic looks at just how big the U.S. cheese stockpile has gotten over the last few years, and compares it to notable landmarks to help put things into perspective.
But before diving into the data, we’ll take a step back to quickly explain why America’s cheese stockpile has gotten so big in the first place.
Why So Much Cheese?
Over the last 30 years, milk production in the U.S. has increased by 50%.
Yet, while milk production has climbed, milk consumption has declined. In 2004, Americans consumed the equivalent of about 0.57 cups of milk per day. By 2018, average milk consumption had dropped to 0.33 cup-equivalents.
In response to this predicament, the U.S. government and dairy companies have been purchasing the extra milk and storing it as cheese for years.
So, where does one store such a large amount of cheese? A sizable portion of the stockpile is stored in a massive underground warehouse (a former limestone quarry) outside of Springfield, Missouri.
The Stockpile Keeps Growing
Apart from a small dip in 2021 during the global pandemic, America’s stockpile of cheese has increased steadily over the last five years:
|Date||Total cheese in cold storage (billion pounds)||Y-o-y change (%)|
Between April 2018 and April 2022, U.S. cheese holdings increased by 130 million pounds to reach 1.48 billion pounds. After climbing up to 1.52 billion pounds in July, the stockpile settled once again at 1.48 billion pounds at the end of August 2022.
Now, the U.S. cheese stockpile weighs more than the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Tower of Pisa, and the Great Sphinx of Giza—combined.
Is the Cheese Stockpile Here to Stay?
Attempts have been made to get rid of the cheese stockpile. Over the years, the government has established federal food welfare programs and encouraged milk consumption in schools throughout the country.
Yet, despite their best efforts to decrease the surplus, America’s cheese stockpile continues to grow.
As domestic consumers continue to decrease their milk consumption, and switch out their dairy milk for milk alternatives like almond or oat milk, how much bigger will this cheese stockpile get before the government comes up with an alternative solution to deal with its surplus of dairy?
Visualizing Orangutans: The Most Endangered Great Ape
This graphic highlights the threats that pushed the world’s most endangered great apes to the brink, and what we can do to prevent their extinction.
Orangutan: The Most Endangered Great Ape
Just 50 years ago, millions of our orange-haired relatives—the orangutans—populated Earth.
But over the past five decades, these numbers have declined by 50%, and orangutans are estimated to completely disappear in the next 50 years. Currently, the world’s most endangered great ape is on a path to extinction.
This illustrated graphic by Shehryar Saharan uses a wide range of information to highlight the threats that led to the downfall of the world’s orangutans, and what can be done to prevent their extinction. Sources include National Geographic, the New England Primate Conservancy, WWF, the IUCN Red List, Current Biology, Our World in Data, Nature, AAAS, and Britannica.
Where Are the Orangutans?
These long-haired, orange, and gentle primates are closely related to humans. They are extremely intelligent, and also crucial to the ecosystem as they help spread the seeds of trees in the forests they inhabit.
Found exclusively in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, these tree-dwellers are Asia’s only great apes. Their three species are all found on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
|Species||Scientific name||Location||Distinct Physical Features|
|Sumatran Orangutan||Pongo abelii||Sumatra (Indonesia)||Wide cheek pads, longer hair.|
|Bornean Orangutan||Pongo pygmaeus||Island of Borneo (Indonesia and Malaysia)||Small beard, broad face, dark fur.|
|Tapanuli Orangutan||Pongo tapanuliensis||Sumatra (Indonesia)||Flat face, Frizzy hair.|
The dark reddish-haired Bornean Orangutans are more likely than the others to come down from their trees and travel the ground in search of fruit. According to the IUCN, their population declined by over 50% in the past 40 years to a range of 55,000‒104,700, making it a critically endangered species.
More social than their Bornean cousins, Sumatran Orangutans are often seen feasting on fig trees in large groups and don’t need to travel the ground. Historically distributed over the entire massive island of Sumatra and further south into Java, the species’ range is now restricted to the north of the big island.
Discovered in North Sumatra in 2017, the Tapanuli Orangutan is the newest-discovered great ape and the rarest one. With an estimated population of just 800 surviving individuals, these critically-endangered apes are teetering on the brink of extinction.
Like wildlife across the world, the orangutan population is threatened by factors like climate change, forest fires, and urbanization and development.
|Threats to Orangutans||Estimated Population Impacted|
|Agriculture and Aquaculture||28%|
|Hunting and Trapping||22%|
|Logging and Wood Harvesting||14%|
|Natural System Modifications||10%|
|Climate Change and Severe Weather||10%|
|Residential and Commercial Development||8%|
|Energy Production and Mining||7%|
|Transport and Service Corridors||1%|
However, the biggest drivers are the orangutan’s loss of habitat due to palm oil production, deforestation, as well as hunting and trapping.
Over the past 20 years, orangutans have lost over 80% of their habitat to deforestation for palm plantations, agriculture, mining, and infrastructure. One palm oil plantation can require thousands of hectares of tropical forests to be bulldozed.
Forced into a smaller areas with less food and shelter, the rest are in a constant game of hide and seek with hunters and poachers looking to capture them for food, artefacts, and the illegal pet trade of baby orangutans.
Our Role in Their Conservation
From lipsticks and body lotion to biofuels and wood, many items we use drive deforestation for their creation.
In the case of orangutans, avoiding items that use the very palm oil produced in plantations that destroy their habitats plays a big role.
On a larger scale, there are organizations like The Orangutan Project that are campaigning to end the deforestation of orangutan habitats and conserve the depleting population.
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