Wisconsin natives know their cheese. They are, after all, the home of the Master Cheesemaker program (which requires a 10-year cheesemaker’s license to enter).

The people of Polk County, Wisconsin, are well aware that their cheese knows no limits. And so a few years ago they decided to extend its use beyond pleasurable consumption: The rural county started using liquid cheese brine in order to melt road ice during the winter.

Cheesy, yet efficient

Yes, you read that right — instead of spending the thousands of dollars it would cost to dispose of cheese brine each year, Wisconsin puts the provolone and mozzarella byproducts back to use by pouring them on wintry roads.

It’s a genius solution. Wisconsin’s roads are icy, typical rock salt is pricey, and excess cheese brine would be wasted anyway. Plus, the cheese brine technique is incredibly effective when it comes to de-icing the roads: it speeds the melting of ice, helping the county use less salt overall, NPR reported. While the typical salt brine used on roads freezes at six below zero, cheese brine doesn’t freeze until 21 below zero.

According to Gizmodo, the cheesy snow removal hack saved Polk County around $40,000 in rock salt costs back in 2013.

Pros and cons

Emil “Moe” Norby, technical support manager for the Polk County Highway Department, told NPR that the cheese brine solution is a win-win. “The brine makes a definite difference for the county and its drivers. Last winter, we put down 38,000 gallons of it.”

Milwaukee ended up trying out the brine as well. “We’re just trying to make every possible use of cheese,” said Tony Zielinski, an alderman who represents the Bay View district told The New York Times, adding that local governments in other states have called him to learn more about the program. “If this takes off, if this proves to be a success here, I’m sure that it will be used in cities all over the country.”

Perhaps. But potential problems like rodent attraction and cheesy odor might be turn-offs to some.

Then again, though, is getting a whiff of cheese amongst a winter wonderland really such a bad thing? Cheese lovers might argue that this is only an added benefit to the great cheese brine panacea.

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