Why Does Swiss Cheese Have Holes? Science Figured It Out — And Also Why Those Holes Are Disappearing

Have you ever wondered why Swiss cheese has holes? Well, I've got good news and bad news for you. First, the good news: Science finally figured out where those holes come from, solving a 100-year-old mystery of epic and cheesy proportions. Hoorah! The bad news, though? The fact that we now know how those holes came to be also explains why they seem to be disappearing. You heard me: Swiss cheese no longer has holes. This means that one of my favorite idioms is now obsolete, which I find very, very sad, indeed. Sigh.

Here's the deal: Over the past 10 or 15 years, scientists have noticed that the holes for which Swiss cheese has historically been known seem to have been diminishing, both in size and in frequency. But although there have long been theories about what caused those holes in the first place, that's all they were — theories. No one had yet figured out exactly why Swiss cheese has holes.

But now experts from the Swedish agricultural research center Agroscope say they've finally cracked the code, and it all comes down to one thing: Buckets. Said Angroscope spokesman Regis Nyffeler according to The Guardian, “It's the disappearance of the traditional bucket,” which allowed for bits of hay to fall into the milk before the cheesemaking process began. A series of tests conducted wherein different amounts of hay dust were added back into the milk revealed that the presence and amount of the hay correlated with whether or not there were holes in the cheese.


Modern technology, however, has eliminated the need for buckets; modern milking machines are sealed in such a way that they “completely did away with the presence of tiny hay particles in the milk.” The good news, of course, is that fully automated, industrial milking systems are a heck of a lot cleaner than simply milking a cow by hand directly into a bucket; but the bad news is that this level of cleanliness has resulted in a lack holes in our beloved Swiss cheese. No bucket means no hay, and no hay means no holes.

But hey, at least it means that when our parents told us the holes came from mice nibbling away at the cheese, they were totally lying, right? Furthermore, we now know that William Clark's 1917 conclusion that the holes came from carbon dioxide produced by bacteria was wrong, too. Also, the moon is not, in fact, made of Swiss cheese — but you probably already knew that.

Is anyone else seriously craving a grilled cheese now?

Images: fortyforks/Fotolia; Giphy