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Madison - One of the goals of a Wisconsin trade mission to China was to attend the International Dairy Expo and Summit, an event in its second year in Heilongjiang province – China’s chief dairy area and a province that has been Wisconsin’s sister state for more than 30 years.

“They really wanted us to go there to show our products at this expo,” said Jennifer Lu, an International Economic Development Consultant with Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, who went on the trade mission.

Also part of the delegation was Sandy Chalmers, DATCP’s Assistant Deputy Secretary and a number of ag business representatives. “They talked to us a lot about value-added dairy products,” she said. “They were very interested in overall trends and regulatory and food safety issues.”

At the dairy exposition chefs explained to people dairy delicacies that Wisconsinites take for granted like a four-cheese macaroni and cheese entry and fried cheese curds.

While there the Wisconsin delegation played a part in setting a Guinness world record for the largest number of cheese varieties on display in one place. The previous record was 375 varieties. This time around 417 were provided from Wisconsin alone and the record was set at 489 total cheese varieties.

“The government officials knew that Wisconsin helped out in the effort and they were very appreciative,” Chalmers said. At the last minute Jim’s Cheese Pantry from Waterloo supplied 100 different kinds of cheese to boost the total for this exhibition, she added. Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery provided its curds for the record-setting display.

Some of the cheese entries for the Guinness record had to be hand carried to the event, which was put on by the Great Wall International Exhibition Co., at the dairy summit.

Chalmers said it was gratifying to see how interested the Chinese people are in the wide variety of dairy products. Hundreds of people stood in line for hours for the chance to sample one of the cheeses that were displayed.

For the Guinness officials to accept the world record, at least half of the products had to be consumed on site rather than being just discarded. “I worried that for some of the Chinese people, their first taste of cheese might be the one with ghost peppers in it,” she said with a smile.

“But it didn’t seem to be a problem. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was really something to see. Chinese people lined up for hours to get a taste of cheese.”

Chinese people from the country’s northern provinces, where they are influenced by Russia because it is just across the border, consume more dairy products.

The trade group that traveled to the Chinese dairy show included several dairy cattle genetics companies, barn machinery specialists, a calf housing company and an alfalfa seed company. All were part of the trade show at the Heilongjiang event and Chalmers notes that no one else from the United States was there – only Wisconsin.

The DATCP team said the trade mission to China was a “great opportunity. We will go back there next year,” they added. The group of ag-based companies that populated the trade event at the dairy exposition created a large presence in terms of U.S. companies.

“We hear so much about the economic slowdown in China, but there are still opportunities,” Chalmers added.

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