MADISON, WI (AP) – The largest technical cheese, butter and yogurt competition in the world started today, Tuesday. March 3, in Wisconsin, with a record 3,667 entries from 26 nations.
The 55 judges taste, sniff and inspect the 132 classes of dairy products during the biennial World Championship Cheese Contest.
The judges include cheese graders, cheese buyers, dairy science professors, and researchers from 19 nations and 14 states.
“So what you’re seeing is judges from around the world who are cheese experts. Some work in universities, some buy cheese every day, and so they taste cheese every day. They are experts in the minutia of cheese detail, like is it too bitter? Is it too acidic?”John Umhoefer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, said.
This year’s winner will be announced Thursday.
This year the competition added an “extra-aged” category for gouda, as the popularity continues to rise. Those goudas are 10 months of age or older.
One judge and 30 people from a Japanese university could not attend because the university didn’t allow international travel due to the new coronavirus, according to Rebekah Sweeney, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which organizes the event.
There will be extra hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers for the judges “out of an abundance of good intention,” Sweeney said. Otherwise, the virus was not expected to affect the competition, she said.