Holy Lactococcus Lactis!

Wisconsin, which produces more cheese than any other state in the U.S., has given preliminary approval to a bill that will name the bacterium that converts milk into cheese as the official state microbe.

It’s called lactococcus lactis and is pictured at right.

“We call those people who oppose it lactose intolerant,” joked Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie), who presented the bill to the Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security on Thursday. The committee voted 7-1 in favor of the bill. It will likely head to the full Assembly in January.

Supporters say the bill may seem silly but it has its merits.

“We want people to know that as a result of this little microbe, we are able to produce these things for Wisconsin, and it’s a tremendous backbone to our industrial complex,” said Hebl.

Plus, establishing a state microbe could spark national attention.

“It doesn’t cost anything to have a state microbe, but it really is a great advertising tool so that we can sell what Wisconsin is really great at to the world,” said Hebl.

Wisconsin’s cheese-making industry generates $18 billion a year. That’s twice as much as the citrus industry in Florida, and seven times as much as potatoes in Idaho. Wisconsin ranks first in cheese production in the U.S., producing 2.5 billion pounds of cheese annually, or 26 per cent of total output. California is second at 23 percent while Idaho is third at 8 percent.

In other cheese news this week . . . two shoppers needed hospital treatment after they fought a pitched battle in a supermarket in Germany with salami used as clubs and Parmesan cheese brandished like a dagger.