Welcome to Wisconsin

Those of you out-of-staters venturing into Wisconsin for the first time perhaps have noticed a few things — the verdant landscape, the ubiquitous beer-drinking establishments on and around College Avenue, people wearing green and mustard yellow clothing as if that were a normal thing to do, and, of course, the Wisconsin dairy culture (so to speak).

Indeed, Wisconsin dairy farming is second to none (well, second to California, but California is really big) and the locals here embrace the cheese culture in ways that Californians could only dream.  Firstly, of course, the locals actually call themselves cheeseheads, and will go so far to wear cheese-themed headwear.

We also have something else the median Californian doesn’t see much of — winter.  As you might expect, the cheeseheads are busy looking for innovative ways to defray the considerable costs of combating roadway snow and ice.  And, as it turns out, they need look no farther than the cheese on top of their heads.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is on top of the story:

The [Milwaukee] Department of Public Works will go ahead this winter with a pilot program to determine whether cheese brine — a liquid waste product left over from cheesemaking — can be added to rock salt and applied directly to the street…

Tiny Polk County, in the northwest part of the state, has been using cheese brine since 2009. According to the city report, Polk County saved approximately $40,000 in the first year by using cheese brine as a pre-wet agent to salt or a combination of salt/sand.

It seems they spray the cheese on the ground as a primer and then dump the rock salt on top of that.  Rock salt is more expensive than cheese brine (generally, I guess) so it seems to make sense.  Except the cheese is kind of stinky, it seems.

I really liked the writing in the story and the somewhat comical undertones  (though my spell check doesn’t seem to recognize the word cheesemaking, it seems to flow quite naturally in the  Journal-Sentinel prose).  Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that cheese wasn’t the first choice — the city has been toying around with salt-brine, molasses, and beet juice as supplements to defray the cost of rock salt.  

Beet juice!?!

Next time they’ll know better.