macncheese Bertha's Kitchen

Macaroni and cheese at Bertha's Kitchen on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The restaurant in Charleston's Neck Area is being recognized this year by the James Beard Foundation as an America's Classic. Wade Spees/Staff

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“The jump in total domestic cheese consumption over the past two years was the biggest since 2000, with Americans eating the most on average since the government began tracking the data in 1975.” — Bloomberg News, Jan. 17, 2017

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As the “Got Milk?” campaign suggests, dairy farmers have long staked their fortunes on the popularity of cow milk in its purest form, meaning served cold in a tall glass.

But studies showing chocolate milk may improve athletic performance and milk’s longstanding reputation as a calcium powerhouse haven’t persuaded Americans to drink more of the stuff. Fluid milk consumption is down one-third since 1980.

At the same time, milk production has gone up, a situation that could result in wasted milk or prices which farmers would consider painfully low. But the country’s love of cheese has reframed the picture.

“With the beverage market, there’s a lot more choices. But you can’t replace cheese on a pizza,” a diary promoter told Bloomberg News.

Far from taking the cheese off pizzas, imaginative corporate chefs are finding new places to put it. Pizza Hut this fall introduced a pie with cheese baked into the crust, grilled cheese sandwich-style, and Papa John’s has released a pizza with cheese that extends to the edge of its crust.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American annually eats 35 pounds of cheese, a figure that’s doubled since 1980.

The local read

Brittany and Luke Davis of Luke’s Craft Pizza have aesthetic reasons for rebuffing requests for extra cheese. “We explain that since we use fresh mozzarella, which contains more water, extra cheese can actually make the pie soggy,” Brittany Davis says.

Still, that hasn’t stopped customers from indulging their cheese passions at the take-out pizza shop.

“We perhaps have seen an increase in cheese pizzas: Tomato or olive oil-and-garlic with mozzarella and asiago, or ricotta with mozzarella and asiago,” she continues. “Something about a simple, classic cheese pizza, we guess.”

— Hanna Raskin

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.