Members of the Colby High School choir perform a song praising their city's namesake cheese before a legislative committee (Image from video provided by WisconsinEye)
Members of the Colby High School choir perform a song praising their city's namesake cheese before a legislative committee (Image from video provided by WisconsinEye)

Designation Would Be First of Its Kind in the Nation

With license plates boasting it is “America’s Dairyland,” to the fact it is the country’s top cheese producer, few would argue that Wisconsin is a pretty cheesy place. 

Even sports teams cannot escape the cheese connection. No other state is home to a NFL football team whose fans proudly call themselves cheeseheads, while sporting giant wedges of cheese on their heads made of foam. 

And while the state bird of Wisconsin is the robin, the state insect is the honey bee and the state fish is the musky, there is no state cheese.

An effort is underway to change that. 

Leading the effort, with cheese hats on their heads, were students from the Colby High School choir, singing this week at a public hearing to make Colby cheese the state cheese of Wisconsin.

Designating Colby As the State Cheese

"It starts off just like Cheddar, but then we make it better!" Sings the Colby High School choir who performed at the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection public hearing on Senate Bill 519, designating Colby as the state cheese. Colby is a Wisconsin native cheese, created in the City of Colby by Joseph Steinwand in 1885. Other public testimony lauded Colby cheese as a "game changer" for the "dairyland brand." Passage of this bill would make Wisconsin the first to have a state cheese.Watch the full public hearing: https://wiseye.org/2020/01/29/senate-committee-on-government-operations-technology-and-consumer-protection-9/#wisconsineye #colbycheese

Posted by WisconsinEye on Thursday, January 30, 2020

“Colby, Colby cheese. However you slice it you’ll be pleased” was among the lyrics sung to members of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Practice during the public hearing.  

If the bill passes, Wisconsin will become the first state in the country with a state cheese.

“Colby is more than just cheese,” said Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, whose district includes Colby, a city of roughly 2,000 in central Wisconsin. “It is a symbol of how one small person, from one small place can change things, even the course of a state.”

Colby cheese was created in 1885 by Joseph Steinwand. He named his family’s recipe for the mild-flavored cheese after the town he lived in. The cheese became a regional favorite and is now marketed around the world, with 60 cheesemakers in Wisconsin producing 21 percent of the country’s Colby cheese, Bernier said. 

“Colby was the original,” Bernier said. “It helped transform Wisconsin into the country’s dairyland.”

Following the public hearing, the bill still needs to be passed out of committee and approved by the Legislature.