Though Idaho is the nation's third-largest producer of cheese, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture says Idahoans who want to join the “locavore” movement have often had trouble finding Idaho-made cheese to buy. The reason: Most Idaho cheese is sold to food companies that put their own brand on the package and distribute their products nationwide, with no mention of where the cheese originated. Now, however, retail giant Walmart is signing on with the department's “Idaho Preferred” program, selling Idaho-made cheese under an “Idaho Cheese” brand decorated with a blue image of the state's shape and the blue-and-gold Idaho Preferred logo.
“This project has been in the works for a long time,” said Leah Clark, manager of the Idaho Preferred program, who worked with Walmart on it. “They were very persistent in their efforts to encourage Idaho cheese companies to find a way to identify local cheese in their stores.”
The new Walmart Idaho brand cheese will be provided by Nelson-Ricks Creamery near Rexburg, which will produce some of the varieties in its own plant and buy others from other Idaho cheese producers, including Glanbia in Twin Falls. The varieties will include mild and medium cheddar, Monterey jack, Colby jack, pepper jack and mozzarella. The Idaho cheese goes on sale at southern Idaho stores this week, with plans to extend distribution to North Idaho stores later this fall.