The Clever Reason Wisconsin Coats Its Roads In Cheese Brine

Wisconsin, the state known as America's Dairyland, knows a thing or two about cheese. Not only does Wisconsin offer the only Master Cheesemaker Program in the world outside of Europe, but it also produces an average of more than 3 billion pounds of cheese annually, according to Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. That's a lot of fromage!

Of course, the primary use of cheese is to consume copious amounts of it. Whether you prefer to feast on cheese by itself, on sandwiches, as part of a fancy charcuterie board, in the form of squeaky curds, or atop pizza and pasta, it's a savory, flavorful fare enjoyed by people everywhere. But there's another ingenious way in which the Badger State has been known to use cheese, particularly during its harsh winters. It may come as a bit of a shock to non-Sconnies. In recent years, Wisconsin has used cheese brine to clear snowy, icy roads (per NPR).

Cheese brine has the power to melt snow and ice

This is certainly a unique way to repurpose cheese! In 2013, the city of Milwaukee tested a new technique to plow the snow-covered roads in its Bay View neighborhood. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett introduced a pilot program to mix cheese brine with traditional rock salt. Cheese brine is the leftover salt-saturated liquid used in the cheesemaking process. As it turns out, cheese brine makes rock salt more effective by preventing it from bouncing off the streets, according to WISN 12 News Milwaukee.

This unique method was executed in an attempt to cut costs and ease pollution. Cities across the country have been testing more affordable and environmentally friendly ways of clearing streets, including using everything from beet juice to brewery grain. These ingredients are leveraged to decrease the use of salts, which can pollute waterways (per New York Times). As far as the ideal cheese varieties used? "Provolone or mozzarella," said Jeffrey A. Tews, the now-retired fleet operations manager for the city's public works department. "Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it."

Milwaukee County wasn't the first metropolis to take advantage of cheese brine. Back in 2009, Polk County, which is near the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, claimed that it saved $40,000 in rock salt expenses when it sprinkled cheese brine on its highways (per New York Times).