By WCCO-TV Staff

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The largest technical cheese, butter and yogurt competition in the world started Tuesday in Wisconsin, with 2,978 entries from 29 nations.

The 53 judges taste, sniff and inspect the 141 classes of dairy products during the biennial World Championship Cheese Contest, this year held in Madison.

The number of entries is down from 2020 when it was a record 3,667 and that’s partly due to supply chain issues, labor shortages and shipping issues, according to Grace Atherton, communications director for Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which organizes the event.

The event is normally open to the public but this year it’s only open to vaccinated judges, staff and volunteers, due to COVID-19 precautions. Masks will not be required since the local Dane County mask requirement expires Tuesday. Other precautions include the judges’ tables being spaced further apart and hand sanitizer stations.

The announcement of the winner will be Thursday, with finalists around the world participating virtually.

In 2020, a gruyere from Switzerland has been named the world’s best cheese. The cheese from Bern, Switzerland made its maker, Michael Spycher of Mountain Dairy Fritzenhaus, a two-time winner. Spycher also won in 2008.

The judges include cheese graders, cheese buyers, dairy science professors, and researchers from 16 nations and 13 states.

(© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)