I should have written a book about pizza cheese

A colleague notes an interesting bit of business in Dan Boyd’s story in this morning’s newspaper about the state of New Mexico’s “closing fund”, a state government goody bag to help fund economic development:

The most recent project to be allocated closing fund dollars is the expansion of a Southwest Cheese Co. factory in Clovis.

data source: USDA

data source: USDA

My book-in-the-making includes a riff on “burgers and pizza cheese,” because a significant fraction of the water we use for agriculture in the western United States goes to alfalfa and other forage for animals, and a significant fraction of that goes to dairies, and a significant fraction of that goes to the production of pizza cheese. Per capita U.S. consumption of Mozarella (mmm, pizza) has increased ten-fold since 1970 to 11 pounds per year. In the early 2000s Mozarella caught up with perennial favorite cheddar. For a few years it was neck-and-neck, but Mozarella ended the clear winner.

So when we as a state fund an eastern New Mexico cheese plant as a tool of economic development, we are funding the topmost rung of a ladder that is based on farmland devoted to alfalfa and other yummy cow food. It’s the alfalfa->dairy->pizza cheese supply chain.



  1. Wait, where do you write about the ridiculous amount of water this takes, and how it’s drawing down the last of the Ogalala aquifer? And about how these dairies got kicked out of California for using too much water, but came to New Mexico instead. That may be myth; is it?

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