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Specialty goat’s milk cheese
gains following, accolades

June 24, 2016

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — Goat’s milk cheeses, which have centuries of tradition in France and other countries, are relative newcomers to America’s culinary scene. However, the pioneering efforts of U.S. goat’s milk cheesemakers over the last 30 years have made goat’s milk cheese now common in not just specialty retailers and high-end restaurants, but also in mainstream supermarkets and home kitchens.

“Goat cheeses, once considered exotic, are really finding a groove and becoming a mainstay,” says Bob McCall, sales director at Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata, California. “There has been steady growth in sales and popularity over the last 10 years, and in particular in the last 3-4 years, it’s really taken hold. I think as the foodie phenomenon continues to expand and Americans’ palates continue evolving we will see more interest in what was once considered fringe, unique offerings.”

Cypress Grove Chevre, founded by self-proclaimed hippie and mother-of-four Mary Keehn, was one of the original anchors of goat’s milk cheeses in the United States, McCall says. A few others — including Laura Chenel’s in Sonoma, California, and Vermont Creamery in Websterville, Vermont — also started making and selling goat’s milk cheeses in the early 1980s.

“Mary was milking goats in the morning and evening while raising four daughters on her own, making cheese and delivering it to stores and restaurants,” McCall says of Keehn’s early days in the cheese business. “She was struggling since there was no market really, and very little European fresh Chevre coming over. Only very poor quality, super barnyardy, goaty cheeses were being imported, so there wasn’t really anything good to generate strong consumer demand. These women started making some good product and it started to catch on.”

Vermont Creamery, which was founded in 1984 by Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, faced similar challenges in trailblazing a new market for French-style goat’s milk cheeses in the United States.
“When we started the company 32 years ago, Americans really weren’t eating many goat cheeses. They complained that the cheeses were goaty, gamey and not a palatable flavor,” says Kara Herlihy, community and education coordinator, Vermont Creamery. “The market was saturated with Cheddar and hard cheeses. It was a battle to introduce goat cheese to the market in an organic way.”

A big break for U.S. goat’s milk cheeses came when the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, introduced a salad topped with warm baked rounds of Laura Chenel’s Chevre to its menu.

“It became a national phenomenon. It was written up by the New York Times and copied by other fine restaurants,” McCall says. “This really got interest in goat cheese started — first in San Francisco, and then New York, and it sort of grew out from there up and down the coasts. It’s still strengthening and growing today.”

• Award-winning cheeses

This year, goat’s milk cheeses all but swept the cheese category honors in the Specialty Food Association’s annual sofi Awards, which honor the best in specialty foods. The winner as well as four of the five other finalists were all goat’s milk or mixed goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses.

Vermont Creamery’s Bijou aged goat’s milk cheese was named winner of the category, while its Bonne Bouche was honored as a finalist. Cypress Grove Chevre’s ash-ripened Bermuda Triangle, Coach Farm’s Triple Cream Goat’s Milk Cheese, and Daphne’s Creamery Snowy Cheddar made from goat’s and cow’s milk also were finalists in the cheese category.

“It was interesting for us this year to see so many goat’s milk cheeses in our category. We were thrilled to win in the cheese category,” Herlihy says. “It’s interesting to see all the new cheeses and rising competition. It’s good to see Americans eating more goat’s milk cheeses and that they’re more comfortable and approachable. We have seen a lot of new producers sprout up.”

A new generation of U.S. goat’s milk cheese artisans also has made some impressive showings at contests in recent years. In 2011, LaClare Farms’ Evalon — a hard goat’s milk cheese from Wisconsin cheesemaker Katie (Hedrich) Fuhrmann, who was 25 at the time — became only the second goat’s milk cheese ever to win the top prize at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

Boston Post Dairy LLC, Enosburg Falls, Vermont, just started producing soft goat’s milk cheeses in 2010 and hard goat’s milk cheeses in 2011. Its aged goat’s and mixed milk cheeses have won several medals at the American Cheese Society competition in recent years, and its Très Bonne Gouda-style goat’s milk cheese placed third in the hard goat’s milk category at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest.

Cheesemaker Anne Doe, who jointly owns Boston Post Dairy with her three sisters, says entering competitions both helped to improve their cheeses and to increase awareness and distribution. Their cheeses now are distributed in Northeastern states as well as in California and Texas.

“Where we are, we had to fight to get known,” Doe says, explaining that there were no distributors in their area of southern Vermont. “We had to prove ourselves first, so we relied on competitions to help improve our cheese. We learned from judges’ critiques that said we could have done this or that. When we started taking awards and hitting the papers, it increased people’s awareness.”

• Specialty varieties

Boston Post Dairy makes hard goat’s, mixed and cow’s milk cheeses as well as fresh Chevre, Feta and curds. Doe says the hard goat’s milk cheeses — particularly Très Bonne and Eleven Brothers — are the ones the dairy is most known for and that sell the best via distributors, while the flavored Chevres tend to sell well locally. Boston Post Dairy also last year introduced a new Camembert-style, bloomy rind cheese called White Diamond, which has been successful.

“It’s increased in popularity like crazy. We’re shipping 200 every week,” Doe says of White Diamond. “The flavor’s delicious. It’s going really well even out here. We can see people are more open-minded to goat’s milk cheeses now.”

She adds that consumers who didn’t think they liked goat cheese have changed their minds after trying their varieties.

“We started doing farmers’ markets, and it was hard in our local area to get people to try goat cheese,” she says. “Once they gave our goat cheese a try, they loved it. There was just that stigma of goat.”

McCall says Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, a soft-ripened cheese with a subtle, tangy flavor and layers of vegetable ash on the rind and in the middle, is what the company is most known for and comprises about 50 percent of its sales.

“It’s over 20 years old now and was one of the big players in helping not just goat cheese become popular but American-made artisan cheese in general,” McCall says. “It’s a very beautiful, tasty cheese, and it didn’t have all the pretense and inaccessibility of hard-to-pronounce French cheeses. It gave Americans easy access to our own cheese. People would say, ‘I didn’t think I would like goat cheese.’ A lot of people call Humboldt Fog a ‘gateway cheese.’”

In addition to soft-ripened cheeses, Cypress Grove also offers a selection of aged cheeses and fresh, flavored Chevre varieties with names like PsycheDillic and Purple Haze that give a nod to Keehn’s hippie roots.

“You can make any kind of cheese from goat’s milk, and our line represents that,” McCall says.

• Quality milk

High-quality cheese starts with high-quality milk, and goat’s milk cheeses reflect this basic tenant on a heightened scale.

“The flavor is based on how you handle the cheeses and how you handle the milk. It depends on animal husbandry, what you feed and how well you treat the animals — essentially, how happy they are. Goats are very intelligent, fickle animals,” McCall says.

“Once you get the milk and if you’ve treated it gently, kept it cold and got it to the creamery quickly, only then, if you know what you’re doing, you have a chance of making good cheese,” he says. “With goat cheese, you can’t cut corners or you will have a barny flavor.”

Doe makes cheese twice a week with milk from her family’s 266 goats. The milk that’s not used by Boston Post Dairy is sold to Vermont Creamery.

“Our cheese isn’t goaty,” Doe says. “If you hold onto the milk for more than a few days, you get a goaty flavor. Also, if the buck is kept with the herd, you get more pheromones in the milk.”

Vermont Creamery in recent years has developed its Ayers Brook model commercial goat dairy in an effort to improve the genetics and quality of its herd as well as promote training and growth for Vermont’s goat dairy industry.

“We’re educating farmers on milking goats. We’re in a country where people haven’t been milking goats and eating goat’s milk cheeses for a long time like in France. We’re trying to keep the supply up and to get farmers interested in it,” Herlihy says.

“Open, well-ventilated barns matter a lot,” she explains. “If you don’t have a properly-ventilated, open-air, lean space, the milk tastes bad. They absorb flavors from the environment.”

McCall says the number of small regional goat dairies and creameries popping up around the country are indicative of the steady growth and popularity of goat’s milk cheeses.

“We really welcome the additional goat cheese creameries popping up here and there,” he says. “We feel the rising tide lifts all boats. The more goat cheese that’s out there and gets talked about, the better it is for all of us.”


New flavors join Old-World
classics in Italian cheeses

June 24, 2016

Editor’s note: Passport to Cheese is Cheese Market News’ feature series exploring the dairy industries of nations around the world. Each month this series takes an in-depth look at various nations/regions’ dairy industries with coverage of their milk and cheese statistics and key issues affecting them. The nations’ interplay with the United States also is explored. This month we are pleased to introduce our latest country — Italy.

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — The history of many of Italy’s famous cheeses can be traced back close to 1,000 years or more. Gorgonzola was made in Italy’s Po Valley in 879 A.D., and Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels today are made nearly identically to how they were in 1200-1300. Traditional Italian cheeses remain popular as ever on cheese boards and in recipes around the world, while new varieties and formats continue to expand Italy’s tradition of quality cheese.

Italy’s cheese exports have grown to more than 330,000 metric tons (727.5 million pounds) sold worldwide, with sales of more than 2.5 billion euros (US$2.8 billion), according to a 2015 report from the International Dairy Federation (IDF). Exports of Mozzarella and other fresh cheeses are growing the fastest, while Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano also have showed significant growth. Provolone and Gorgonzola also are growing at slightly slower but still significant levels, IDF notes. Italy’s five main export markets for cheese are France, Germany, United Kingdom (UK), United States and Switzerland.

• King of Cheese

According to the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, which oversees the regulation and marketing of Italy’s most famous DOP (protected designation of origin) cheese, 35 percent of the Parmigiano-Reggiano produced in 2015 — totaling 101.4 million pounds or 1.15 million wheels — was exported to international markets, the highest increase (13.2 percent) in the last decade.

“The orientation of consumers towards high-quality and fully-natural products, together with the new contracts with primary retailers, as well as the education activities on product consumption carried out by the consortium, have given rise to this unprecedented growth, which is also much higher than that of many other made-in-Italy quality products,” says Riccardo Deserti, director of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium.

Parmigiano-Reggiano exports to the United States grew 34 percent in 2015, the consortium adds, making it the second-largest Parmigiano-Reggiano importer in the world, just behind France.
“We are enamored, in love with Parmigiano-Reggiano,” says Carlo Bertozzi, whose grandfather, Abele Bertozzi, started making the cheese in Italy in 1901.

Today, Abele Bertozzi SpA handles the company’s Parmigiano-Reggiano production in Italy, while Bertozzi Corp. of America, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, is responsible for exports and marketing in the United States. Carlo Bertozzi says thanks to the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, which closely inspects and monitors every aspect of the cheese’s production, consumers can rest assured that the cheese is absolutely natural and of the highest quality.

“What my grandfather did, and what we still do with Parmigiano-Reggiano, is use fresh milk, rennet and salt,” Bertozzi says. “Parmigiano-Reggiano is absolutely natural, no alteration. We feel, especially in the United States, consumers should really take advantage of what we consider quite frankly to be the best cheese in the world. It’s called the ‘King of Cheese’ because it really is the king of cheese.”

There are about 350 producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano and 9,000 milk producers in the cheese’s designated region of Italy, which includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna west of the Reno River, and Mantua east of the Po River. Both the production of milk and cheese for Parmigiano-Reggiano are limited to these areas.

“Some (dairies) are very small, and some are a little bigger. We source from a select number of dairies and have a long-lasting relationship with them,” says Giulia Angoscini, brand manager, Bertozzi Corp. of America.

“It’s an art based on the master cheesemaker,” she adds. “The production is definitely standardized to the rules the consortium sets. But it also is about what kind of expertise and techniques every farm puts in place.”

• Protecting quality

Like other DOP cheeses in Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels are subject to extensive scrutiny and must pass close inspection at each level of aging before they can be marketed with the “Parmigiano-Reggiano” seal.

“Every single farm has to call consortium inspectors, and every wheel is inspected after the first 12 months by hand,” Angoscini says. “If it passes the test, a firemark is put on the wheel to certify the authenticity of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and that it is a perfect wheel. If it doesn’t pass, it is scratched all around. You can sell it as another cheese, but you can’t call it ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano.’”

One challenge Parmigiano-Reggiano and other cheesemakers in Italy face, particularly in export markets, is competing with similar-style but less-expensive varieties from other countries. The European Union has strict rules against using the same or similar-sounding names as protected origin cheeses — for example, even the name “parmesan” is not allowed on cheeses that are produced outside the Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP region. However, outside of the EU, there is more competition with these cheeses.

“This is a real problem. Parmesan cheese sells for about one-third the price of Parmigiano-Reggiano, so unless the consumer understands there is a difference, they will buy parmesan made in the United States,” Bertozzi says. “This is also with other cheeses — asiago, taleggio and so forth. These names are used in the U.S., similar to the DOP counterpart in Italy, but in a way the cheeses are very, very different.”

This week, a partnership between the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium and UK-based brand protection specialist NetNames was announced as an effort to strengthen and protect the Parmigiano-Reggiano trademark. NetNames will use its marketplace enforcement and website monitoring services to detect counterfeit Parmigiano-Reggiano products for sale online and subsequently work to remove websites using domain names containing the Parmigiano-Reggiano trademark.

“Today, the internet is one of the main channels our product is marketed and sold through,” consortium director Deserti says. “We hope that from this agreement we can protect our dairies and consumers against counterfeiting and therefore protect the reputation and integrity of our unique product.”

The issue of common versus protected cheese names has become a sticky issue particularly in recent trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated between the United States and EU.

In March, the European Commission unveiled its TTIP negotiating proposal for agriculture and geographical indications, which included a list of more than 200 food terms the EU wants the U.S. government to protect, including feta, asiago, gorgonzola and fontina cheeses. U.S. dairy groups have consistently condemned these efforts, saying negotiators should not accept any trade agreement that does not protect common names that have been used for decades on U.S. cheeses.

• New tastes

Traditional Italian cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano and Pecorino remain best sellers for specialty shops and distributors in the United States. But new cheese offerings and formats from Italy also are gaining attention.

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., a third-generation owned cheese and Italian specialty food store in Pittsburgh, carries up to 100 varieties of cheeses from Italy, from the traditional classics to newer varieties.

“Aged Pecorino is very popular, and hard cow’s milk cheeses are very popular,” says Richard Derzic, cheesemonger at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. “We have also had some really nice new Italian goat-milk cheeses just come in that people have taken a liking to.”

Another newer variety from Italy that is a customer favorite, Derzic says, is Fior d’Arancio — a Blue-veined cheese soaked in white wine and coated with candied orange peel. It is made by Moro Latteria di Moro Sergio in Oderzo, Italy. Cheesemaker Sergio Moro started making cheese in the early 1980s using traditional curing and aging techniques, then adding flavored ingredients to the rinds to give them unique attributes and appeal to consumers’ more sophisticated tastes.

Bertozzi Corp. of America recently launched a new spreadable Italian cheese, Gran Festa, which is available in three varieties: Garlic & Herbs, Sweet Chili and Pink Peppercorn. The Gran Festa cheeses are made in Italy but only available in the United States.

“Gran Festa is the first Italian spreadable cheese in the United States,” Bertozzi says, adding that it will be marketed in the category with other spreadable brands like Alouette and Boursin. “We did several focus groups and tried to understand what was the cheese that we could market well under our name, Bertozzi. We came to the conclusion that spreadable cheese was a good area for us.”

Angoscini notes that the company aims to market its products to foodies and those especially educated and interested in the quality and origin of their cheese.

“There are some categories of food that American consumers realize have a value-added advantage when imported from Italy,” she says. “The American consumers in the focus groups really valued that the cheese was made in Italy and trusted that as an area of expertise where cheese always has been made.”

Atalanta Corp., an Elizabeth, New Jersey-based importer of Italian and other cheeses and specialty foods, is launching a line of traditional Italian cheeses in user-friendly formats under the brand Cucina Classica at the Summer Fancy Food Show next week in New York. The new brand includes a full line of Italian cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola and Pecorino Romano in shredded, grated and shaved cups and exact-weight cuts.

“Italian cheese is one of our largest categories of product and continues to be a focus category for us,” says Andrea Berti, senior business development manager for Atalanta’s Italian category. “We see a trend toward exact-weight cheeses due to the ease of stocking them in the deli.”

Other U.S. demand trends Atalanta has observed include value-added items for healthy snacking options; more attention to natural ingredients, animal welfare and sustainable practices; and a need for more communication about the origin of and ingredients in the cheeses, as consumers — particularly millennials — are asking a lot more questions about the cheeses they buy.

Bertozzi says the greater interest by consumers in authentic, natural foods will help Italian cheeses become even more in-demand in the future.

“American consumers are more and more educated thanks to the Food Network and celebrity chefs, and they are looking for specialty cheeses that are imported,” Bertozzi says. “They want to have products that are good tasting but also have something to tell, a story to say. In Italy, where we make Parmigiano-Reggiano and other cheeses, behind every cheese we really have a story to tell.”


Milk production in major
states climbs 1.2 percent

June 24, 2016

WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 23 major milk-producing states during May totaled 17.45 billion pounds, up 1.2 percent from May 2015, according to preliminary data released this week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Milk Production chart.)

April revised production in the 23 major states, at 16.83 billion pounds, was up 1.1 percent from April 2015. The April revision represents a decrease of 13 million pounds or 0.1 percent from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 2,019 pounds for May, 21 pounds above May 2015. This is the highest production per cow for the month of May since the 23-state series began in 2003, NASS says.

The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major states was 8.64 million head, 11,000 head more than May 2015 but unchanged from April 2016.

For the entire United States, milk production in May totaled 18.65 billion pounds, up 1.2 percent from May 2015. Production per cow in the United States averaged 1,999 pounds, 23 pounds above May 2015. The number of milk cows on farms in the United States was 9.33 million head in May, 3,000 head more than May 2015 but unchanged from April 2016, NASS says.

California led the nation’s milk production with 3.55 billion pounds of milk in May, down 2.8 percent from its production a year earlier. Production per cow in California in May was 2,005 pounds, down 50 pounds from a year earlier. The state was home to 1.77 million cows in May, down 6,000 head from May 2015 but unchanged from April 2016.

Wisconsin followed with 2.64 million pounds, up 4.2 percent from the state’s production a year earlier. Production per cow in Wisconsin in May was 2,060 pounds, up 85 pounds from May 2015. There were 1.28 million cows in Wisconsin in May, down 1,000 head from a year earlier but unchanged from April 2016.


Senate reaches agreement on GMO legislation

June 24, 2016

WASHINGTON — This week U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., reached agreement on a new proposal that would create national GMO labeling standards and pre-empt states or other entities form mandating labels of food or seed that is genetically engineered. Without a federal pre-emption, Vermont will become the first state to require GMO labeling on foods sold in the state on July 1 when its law is set to take effect.

Roberts, who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, unveiled the bipartisan proposal yesterday.

“Unless we act now, Vermont law denigrating biotechnology and causing confusion in the marketplace is the law of the land. Our marketplace — both consumers and producers — needs a national biotechnology standard to avoid chaos in interstate commerce,” Roberts says.

“In negotiations with Ranking Member Stabenow, I fought to ensure this standard recognizes the 30-plus years of proven safety of biotechnology while ensuring consumer access to more information about their food,” Roberts adds.

In lieu of state labeling mandates, the law would create a national requirement for mandatory disclosure with several options, including text on package, a symbol or a link to a website (QR code or similar technology). Small food manufacturers would be allowed to use websites or telephone numbers to satisfy disclosure requirements, while very small manufacturers and restaurants would be exempted. The new national standard would take effect in two years.

Milk and meat from animals that consume feed grown from biotech seeds would not be subject to the labeling disclosure provisions.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) argued strongly for the provision that exempts milk and meat from labeling requirements and says it is pleased with the compromise national solution proposed.

“We commend Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow for their efforts to produce this sound and workable approach that will reaffirm the federal government’s role in food labeling policy and prevent the chaotic mess that would arise from leaving this issue to the whims of 50 different states,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF. “It is now critical that the Senate vote on and approve the Roberts-Stabenow agreement as soon as possible next week, prior to July 1 when the Vermont biotech labeling law is slated to take effect.”

Other industry organizations also praised the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling agreement.

“The bipartisan Senate agreement is welcome news for farmers, consumers and food manufacturers across the United States,” say Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Charles F. Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, who are co-chairs of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food. “The solution increases consumer access to additional product information without stigmatizing a safe, proven technology that is relied on by American farmers.”

Some consumer groups, however, say the proposal puts the interests of big corporations over those of the people.

“The anti-consumer bill unveiled by Stabenow and Roberts, bought and paid for by big food corporations, nullifies Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law and replaces it with a law that replaces the requirement for clear, on-package labels with a convoluted, inconvenient and discriminatory scheme involving barcodes and 1-800 numbers,” a statement from the Organic Consumers Association says.

Consumers Union Director of Food Policy Initiatives Jean Halloran also says the proposed law does not offer the clear, straightforward labels that consumers want on their foods.

“While we appreciate the efforts by Sen. Stabenow and others to seek a better bill than the one passed by the House last summer, this deal does not meet consumer needs,” she says. “QR codes, 1-800 numbers or websites aren’t a solution. The new Senate bill is just another way to allow companies to keep consumers in the dark.”

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says while some may be dissatisfied with the compromise solution because it includes the option to reveal the presence of GMOs through codes or websites, the proposal also covers more products than the Vermont law. OTA notes that provisions in the proposal safeguard USDA certified organic as the “gold standard” for transparency and non-GMO status.

“When it comes to protecting organic agriculture and trade, we have to take the long view,” OTA’s statement on the compromise proposal says. “If you consider what the opponents of GMO labeling proposed, and what the voluntary and state-by-state options would have offered, it’s hard not to see how this mandatory federal legislation is a constructive solution to a complex issue. The recognition in law that certified organic is non-GMO and can always make that claim is an enormous win.”


Increased availability of goat’s milk allows LaClare Farms to expand

By Kate Sander

MALONE, Wis. — LaClare Farms, a family-owned and operated goat’s milk cheese company, has just expanded its product lineup with a major new introduction: goat’s milk yogurt.

Katie (Hedrich) Fuhrmann, cheesemaker and marketing manager for the company, says the road to making the goat’s milk yogurt was a long one, with the development of just the right recipes and competitive packaging taking some time. Finally, the company is positioned for a successful launch of the new product.

“People are looking for goat’s milk yogurt but all of that up front work takes time,” Fuhrmann says, noting the yogurt should be available at multiple price points in several store chains throughout the Midwest including Schnuck’s, Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, Festival Foods and Woodman’s.

The yogurt comes in 5.3-ounce single serve containers in plain, vanilla, blueberry and strawberry flavors. It also is available in 24-ounce containers in plain and vanilla flavors. The blueberry flavored yogurt won second place in its class at the World Championship Cheese Contest this spring.

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New program preps grads for
dairy operations management

June 17, 2016

By Alyssa Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — A new master’s program at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, is seeking to fill a gap in the dairy industry by graduating management-level employees with a scientific background.

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Dairy Products Technology at Cal Poly — the first of its kind in the United States — seeks to combine academic mastery of dairy science and operations with a focus on developing practical skills that translate directly to the workplace.

Traditional M.S. degrees provide students with a broad base of knowledge in a specific discipline; they tend to be research-focused, with an emphasis on preparing students either for research positions in industry or continuing their studies in pursuit of a Ph.D., says Tom Johnson, manager of the MPS in Dairy Products Technology program at Cal Poly.

“The industry told us Cal Poly and other schools were doing a great job developing scientists, but they also have a need for employees with leadership skills and the ability to manage at the plant level,” he says.

Johnson notes the program recruits not only students with a dairy science background, but also from engineering, chemistry, biology and other disciplines.

“The idea is that if you can find students with the right mindset — critical thinkers, science-savvy, leadership potential — you can teach them the dairy science and technology so they can be successful managers in the dairy industry,” he adds.

This year, the program saw an uptick in “nontraditional” students who already have been in the workforce and want to combine that experience with the leadership training and dairy industry knowledge the program offers, Johnson says. He notes 8-10 program applicants this year already have spent time in the workforce, and some of those were sent for additional training by the dairy processors for which they worked.

The one-year program was formed in 2012 via a partnership between Cal Poly and industry stakeholders and was launched in the fall of 2013, graduating its first class in September 2014. The third class just began internships and will graduate this September.

The program gives students a strong introduction into the science of dairy foods with coursework in dairy chemistry, dairy microbiology, food safety, regulatory affairs, plant management, sustainability and other areas critical to efficient dairy plant management. Layered throughout the curriculum are opportunities to develop leadership skills as well. (For more information, visit After coursework is complete, students must complete a three-month paid internship. To graduate with the MPS in Dairy Products Technology, students must then pass a comprehensive oral exam.

Johnson says graduates of the MPS program might begin their careers on the processing floor or within departments such as R&D, sensory evaluation or QA, but their ultimate roles likely will be supervisory.

Employers might rotate graduates through a variety of departments and business units to help them gain an understanding of the organization as a whole, he adds. For graduates of the program, technical skills and knowledge will be important early in their careers, but over time, “people skills” and leadership abilities will play an increasingly important role as well, he says.

Johnson’s role is primarily to build awareness of the program and assist students in navigating the application process and matriculation into the program. He also travels around the country to raise awareness about the degree.

Johnson also heads up a committee consisting of faculty and dairy industry partners. Several dairy industry stakeholders have contributed funding, time and/or resources to the program, including Leprino Foods Co., Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Dean Foods Co., Schreiber Foods, Hilmar Cheese Co., Tetra Pak, Tillamook and others.

Leprino Foods executives say the program is one of the most significant investments the company has made for the future of the dairy industry.

In addition to partnering with Cal Poly to create the program, the company also has funded the Leprino Foods Dairy Innovation Institute, which serves as the main dairy research building on the Cal Poly campus, as well as an endowed faculty position, says Rob Tuttrup, plant manager at Leprino Foods, Lemoore West, California.

“As a leading dairy processor both in California and throughout the United States, Leprino Foods is always looking for bright, talented and dedicated people such as the graduates of Cal Poly’s MPS program,” Tuttrup says.

He notes Leprino Foods has a need for front-line supervisors with the capability to grow into positions with more responsibility.

“Graduates from the MPS program get a well-rounded technical and leadership education designed to meet many of the demands of a supervisory and managerial position in the dairy industry,” he says.

While the MPS program is still new, Leprino Foods is beginning to see benefits in the workplace, Tuttrup adds, noting a recent graduate the company hired has been successful beginning a career as a supervisor at one of its large plants.

“The benefits we see as an employer is that the graduates of this program come to us with a well-rounded and sophisticated understanding of dairy and the science behind it,” Tuttrup says. “They also have written and oral communications skills that are essential for success in any career.

“We recognize that the success of our company depends on the people who make up our team,” he adds. “This program, and others like it that we are involved in, help to ensure we can find qualified individuals to fill our needs in manufacturing, management and technical positions at our plants.”

2015 MPS program graduate Ben Smith, currently a manufacturing management trainee at Land O’Lakes Inc., was a food science major with a fermentation science emphasis working in the creamery at Oregon State University when he heard about Cal Poly’s program.

“It intrigued me, being new and the first of its kind,” Smith says.

Smith was home brewing at the time and was interested in fermentation, but he discovered a love of cheese and dairy when he began working at the university creamery.

“I really enjoyed the hands-on process of working at the creamery,” he says. “We took cheese to sell at campus events, and I enjoyed the operational side of dairy.”

Smith interned at Land O’Lakes as he completed the MPS program and was hired upon graduation.
“In my role at Land O’Lakes, I can provide background on science and they give me information on the process — we learn from each other,” he says.

Smith notes the manufacturing management trainee program with which he is involved exposes entry-level employees to each aspect of plant operations.

He notes the program is newer on the dairy side of Land O’Lakes’ operations, and he is one of the first to “test it out.” The experience has given him the opportunity to jump into a higher role, but from a trainee perspective, in order to see the decision-making and troubleshooting process. Meanwhile, the curriculum included with the program allows for an understanding of product flow through the plant. He also has the opportunity to travel.

Smith says the MPS program at Cal Poly prepared him to be out in the plant and hands on and taking a less traditional path to management.

“I like to be on the front lines, knowing I’m a part of the food manufacturing process, feeding people across the world,” he says.

Smith adds that the hands-on experience with the program, internship and now employment at Land O’Lakes is invaluable.

When it comes to plant operations management, “No one is going to hand you ‘the problem’ and ‘the solution’ to implement it,” he says. “You need to figure out where the problems are and what the solutions will be.”

Ricardo Deleo, a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in food science and nutrition, was working as a QC manager when he learned of the MPS program at Cal Poly.

“What interested me the most was the program’s specific focus on dairy,” Deleo says.

Deleo says as part of the application and recruitment process, he was asked what he ate that day.

“I realized how much dairy I consume in a typical day,” he says.

“I like cheese ­— there’s an art to it, as well as how complex it is,” he adds. “It’s amazing how many different products you can create from the milk of a dairy cow.”

He also had previously interned with Leprino Foods prior to joining the MPS program.

Deleo, a 2015 graduate of the MPS program at Cal Poly, now is working as an operations analyst for DFA. He is getting to know DFA and the culture and has a long-range plan of becoming a plant manager.

“The controlled chaos, if you will, of the plant is something I really enjoy,” Deleo says. “I like to think of myself as a problem solver.”

Deleo says one of the best aspects of Cal Poly’s MPS program is it has some flexibility and offers students the opportunity to tour plants to get a real look at the inner workings of dairy manufacturing.

“It was very hands-on learning with all the labs that we had and that we actually made all types of dairy products like cheeses, ice cream, yogurt, milk powders, etc.,” he says.

Johnson notes the one-year, specialized master’s program is part of a growing trend in higher education. Cornell University offers an MPS in Food Science with a Dairy Processing specialization option, and other universities have expressed interest in developing similar programs to address a growing need for these types of employees, he says.

Tuttrup says in addition to Cal Poly, Leprino Foods partners with dairy industry peers at Colorado State University, the University of Wisconsin, California State University-Fresno and Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell to support programs and projects that build skills in science, technology and engineering; increase knowledge of dairy and food science as well as food safety; and encourage dairy industry careers.

“Programs like the Cal Poly MPS are a vital and important part of preparing the future workforce to make an immediate impact in the dairy industry,” he says. “The U.S. dairy industry leads the world in many aspects, and continuing to develop capable leaders is critical to the long-term success of this industry.”


Any way it’s sliced, Swiss
remains an American classic

June 17, 2016

Editor’s note: “Cheese of the Month” is Cheese Market News’ exclusive profile series exploring various cheese types. Each month, CMN highlights a different cheese in this feature, giving our readers a comprehensive look at production, marketing, sales and in-depth aspects of each profiled cheese type. Please read on to learn about this month’s featured cheese: Swiss.

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — Swiss cheese, which has been an American mainstay over the last century, was introduced by a wave of immigrants from Switzerland who brought their native cheesemaking traditions to various regions in the United States.

The holey classic traces its roots to the Emmentaler cheeses of Switzerland that were made in 200-pound wheels starting in the Middle Ages, when the Swiss government taxed cheesemakers on the number of pieces they produced rather than the total weight, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). The tradition of making these large wheels continued over hundreds of years since it produced an excellent-quality cheese with perfectly-formed eyes. Modern production methods and plastic packaging developed in the mid-1900s allowed for Swiss to be made in rindless blocks, providing higher yields and ease of cutting in foodservice applications.

• The early years

Ohio and Wisconsin were among the early states to help establish Swiss as a popular cheese in this country.

“This part of Ohio is very similar to Switzerland’s climate, with hills and a lot of good farmland,” says Richard Guggisberg, president of Guggisberg Cheese, Millersburg, Ohio. “There have been Swiss cheese producers back into the 1800s, but quite a wave came over especially in the ’40s and ’50s.”

Richard’s father, Alfred Guggisberg, began making cheese in Switzerland at age 16, and after coming to the United States in 1947 he teamed up with Amish dairy farmers in Ohio’s Doughty Valley to use their milk to make cheese, eventually opening Guggisberg Cheese in 1950. In the 1960s, Alfred developed the “Baby Swiss” style with smaller eyes and a more mild, creamy flavor.

“To this day, all Swiss manufacturers I know of can trace their roots back to Switzerland. It’s a skill developed over the generations. It’s kind of fun to see that continue,” Richard Guggisberg says

Wisconsin’s Green County was home to the state’s first Swiss cheese factory, which opened in Washington Township in 1869, according to the National Historic Cheesemaking Center in Monroe, Wisconsin. The cheese business experienced great expansion through the next several decades, and by 1925, this area of Wisconsin produced 84 percent of the nation’s Swiss cheese.

“All the factories down here were making Swiss at one time or another,” says Bruce Workman, owner of Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello, Wisconsin. “Every four corners in Green County used to have a cheese factory.”

Edwin Gossner Sr., who founded Gossner Foods of Logan, Utah, in 1966, brought Swiss cheese to the Western United States. Born in Switzerland, he immigrated to the United States in 1930 and learned how to make Swiss cheese while serving as an apprentice for his brother’s cheese factory in Wisconsin. He later moved to California and made Swiss cheese for the Rumiano family, and in the 1940s he moved to Cache Valley in northern Utah, where he established what at the time was the largest Swiss factory in the world, producing 120 wheels of cheese a day.

“A lot of it went to New York. Still, his dream was building a business in the West, though not many people were familiar with Swiss cheese in the West — it was more Cheddar,” says Dolores Wheeler, president and CEO of Gossner Foods and Edwin’s daughter. “Particularly in California, Swiss was a unique cheese.”

• Tastes and trends

Swiss cheese is a full-flavored, buttery, nutty cheese with characteristic holes or “eyes” that is aged at least 60 days, according to WMMB. Baby Swiss, produced from whole milk, has a creamier texture and a more buttery, slightly sweet flavor and smaller eyes.

In 2015, Swiss cheese sales in U.S. multi-outlet and convenience stores reached 94.9 million pounds, growing 2.5 percent from the previous year according to IRI data courtesy of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). Traditional Swiss accounted for 87 percent of 2015 sales, while Baby Swiss held a 13-percent share. Baby Swiss has a 4.1-percent compound annual growth rate over the last five years, while traditional Swiss has a negative 2.1-percent compound annual growth rate over this period.

“Swiss cheese in general has been a very low-growth item,” Guggisberg notes. “I think that consumer tastes are changing toward a little more robust flavors.”

DMI also notes that the demographics that skew highly for Swiss include older consumers — both males and females over age 55, according to IRI data.

By format, sliced Swiss is by far the largest with 75.3 percent of the current volume share, IRI data shows. Sliced Swiss also is experiencing volume growth, up 2.3 percent compared to the year-ago period. Sliced Baby Swiss is growing even faster, up 6.3 percent from a year ago.

“Sliced Swiss is the biggest item we produce,” says Dave Larsen, general manager of cheese operations, Gossner Foods. “Sliced continues to grow. We see customers asking for thinner slices, and smaller, resealable packages that make it more convenient have been the trend over the years.”

Wheeler adds that a need for smaller eyes came with the growing demand for sliced Swiss.

“When Dad was in Cache Valley, we gave the grader a quarter and said, ‘That’s the size we want.’ Now we have to pull it much tighter, since people want an eye in every slice. People want more eyes, and they want them smaller.”

• New techniques, Old-World style

Wheeler says the biggest changes in Gossner’s Swiss-making process came with the transition from open to closed vats and the addition of a special press system that helped provide more consistent temperatures and uniform cheese sizes. The company also has made investments in creating a more controlled aging process. Despite all the new technologies, she stresses that one of the most important aspects of making great Swiss is having dedicated people in the company who really understand the cheesemaking process.

“In my opinion, Swiss is the most difficult of all cheeses to make. It’s always changing and growing during the process,” Wheeler says. “It makes a difference to have people who really understand the product, take pride in it and understand what the challenges are.”

With tastes changing toward more artisan styles and robust flavors, Swiss cheesemakers also have started to look back to traditional styles and methods.

When Workman left his position as plant manager at Roth Käse (now Emmi Roth USA) to start his own Edelweiss Creamery, his goal was to bring back the traditional wheels of copper-kettle Swiss that used to be so prevalent in Wisconsin.

“There was nobody making traditional wheel Swiss anymore,” Workman says. “We brought over equipment, including a copper kettle that makes four wheels at a time. We purchased all of the equipment from one of the master cheesemaker schools out of Switzerland. It’s newer technology with Old-World methods.”

Edelweiss Creamery, which opened in 2004, now makes 180-pound Emmentaler Swiss wheels as well as a number of other cheese varieties. Workman says the traditional copper kettle and naturally-cured rind give his Emmentaler a unique profile compared to more commodity-type Swiss.
“It helps flavor profiles in the cheese. You don’t have to use as much culture, so you can slow down and take your time,” Workman says. “We have a sweet nutty flavor.”

While it is not a regular wholesale offering, Guggisberg Cheese also produces a traditional wheel-shaped Swiss from time to time. Last spring, one of its 200-pound Swiss wheels was named the 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese at the biennial contest in Milwaukee.

“It was a real thrill,” Guggisberg says.

Guggisberg Cheese currently is in the midst of an expansion and modernization that will triple its current Swiss capacity. Once finished, Guggisberg says the plant will have the largest capacity of any Swiss plant in the United States. It also will include new equipment that will allow the company to develop other new varieties of Swiss.

Swiss is one of the more challenging cheeses to make, Guggisberg says, and it also is one of the most interesting to eat.

“You’ve got a number of different cultures at work in Swiss cheese,” he says. “What’s unique, is when you put it in our mouth, you get one flavor. As it’s in our mouth, the flavor continues to evolve. As you’re eating it the flavors change, and after you swallow it continues to have a different flavor. It’s a very complex cheese, with many flavors in your mouth. Kind of like a fine wine.”


Trade agreements must
be enforced, NMPF testifies

June 17, 2016

WASHINGTON — The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee this week held a hearing on “Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports.” The Tuesday hearing included testimony from a number of agricultural organizations and businesses, including the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney during the hearing said well-negotiated trade agreements have the potential to increase export opportunities for America’s dairy farmers, but he warned that the terms of free trade agreements must be tenaciously enforced.

Citing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, North American Free Trade Agreement, Central America Free Trade Agreement and the agreement with South Korea as examples of trade deals that have benefited U.S. dairy farmers, Mooney told the subcommittee that U.S. dairy sales in foreign markets have increased 435 percent since 2000. However, he also expressed concern that benefits to dairy farmers from trade agreements are eroded if they are not carefully negotiated and judiciously enforced. He pointed to Canada’s efforts to restrict market access for U.S. milk products as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) awaits enactment.

“NMPF supports TPP. We believe this agreement could deliver important benefits to U.S. dairy farmers provided that it’s properly implemented and enforced,” Mooney says, adding that the pending agreement contains groundbreaking provisions on sanitary and phytosanitary issues and geographical indications.

However, he says, “it is hard to see how this agreement will live up to its potential to move us forward” if TPP partners are allowed to erode existing access in order to undermine future U.S. TPP gains.

“We are drawing the line here. This recent action by Canada is a clear violation of their prior trade commitments, as well as the spirit of Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it cannot be permitted,” Mooney says, referring to a decision by Ontario’s provincial government to favor domestic milk proteins designed for use in Canadian cheese manufacturing in a way that disadvantages U.S. milk exports.

This regional milk pricing policy soon may be implemented across Canada, he notes.

In his presentation, Mooney also reiterated NMPF’s concerns with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) the United States currently is negotiating with Europe.

He says the European Union’s trade negotiation strategy centers on using agreements to extend the application of geographical indications to restrict certain food names exclusively for products made in European nations even though many such foods are commonly produced and sold around the world and have been for many years.

“The TTIP cannot be an agreement that expands EU dairy exports while failing to resolve barriers to U.S. dairy exports,” Mooney says. “That is why negotiators need to focus on the underlying problems we face in accessing the EU market, not the isolated symptoms of it.”

Mooney showed members of the subcommittee a basket full of American agricultural products, from Valencia oranges to asiago cheese to various meat products. Among the food items in the basket, he told them, are “several of the common name products that the United States currently cannot export to Europe or other foreign markets. Compounding those serious export challenges, the EU is now working to prevent us from selling products with these common food names even in the United States as well.”

Given that European food companies already enjoy a major export advantage to the United States, he says. “America’s dairy farmers will not support a TTIP agreement that incorporates policies aimed at artificially increasing the $1.5 billion transatlantic dairy trade deficit. A solid deal must level the playing field for U.S. dairy exports.”

Meanwhile, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson expressed skepticism that the TPP would benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers during his testimony at the hearing.

“Trade is very important to family farmers and ranchers, but market access does not equal market share. Modest increases in agriculture export opportunities that come from trade agreements can be severely overshadowed by the resulting massive increases of imports in agriculture and other sectors,” Johnson says.

While Washington officials have continued to promote the boon of agriculture exports as a selling point for the TPP, NFU has questioned the merits of a trade agreement modeled after failed trade agreements of the past, Johnson adds.

“Vague promises of market access do not offset opening our border for even larger amounts of foreign-produced goods to enter our markets,” he says. “In addition, TPP fails to address the mounting U.S. trade deficit and the practices of currency manipulation, which both have negatively impacted agriculture and rural communities.”


FDA inconsistent with regulation
of ‘soy milk,’ GFI says

June 17, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Good Food Institute (GFI) recently filed a complaint against FDA to disclose records related to the agency’s alleged inconsistency of regulatory treatment of the terms “soy milk” or “soymilk.”

GFI says FDA is inconsistent with its enforcement of use of the term, warning some companies to drop the word “milk” on its product labels while letting other companies use the term.

GFI in April submitted three separate Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA) to FDA and says it has received only a partial response.

The response letter from FDA did not identify any documents being withheld or explain the scope of the search conducted and did not explain FDA’s decision not to search the electronic records identified, GFI says.

GFI is seeking a court order to conduct a reasonable search and promptly disclose all responsive records, as well as costs and fees.

“Everyone knows what soy milk is, so it makes no sense at all that FDA would leave producers in some crazy regulatory limbo,” says Bruce Friedrich, executive director, GFI, in response to a request for comment by Cheese Market News this week. “The standards of identity were created to ensure fair competition and clear labels. FDA’s current indecision with regard to soy milk has created confusion among consumers and an unfair marketplace, and it’s also patently nonsensical. FDA should make a regulatory or policy determination that soy milk can be called what it is, now.”

FDA says it cannot comment on pending litigation.


Recent run-up in CME cheese
likely short-lived, analysts say

June 10, 2016

By Alyssa Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — After hitting recent lows, Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Cheddar prices have increased over the past week, signaling a bottom may have been established for the near term. Still, given heavy stocks and an abundant milk supply, the rally is likely short term, analysts say.

Spot CME Cheddar blocks dipped into the $1.20s in early May but ended the month in the upper $1.30s and have continued to trend upward over the past week, settling at $1.475 per pound today. Cheddar barrels have followed a similar pattern, settling at $1.51 per pound to close out this week.

The recent run-up is a bit puzzling to analysts, who note record-level cheese stocks and a burgeoning milk supply that typically would pressure prices downward.

However, domestic fundamentals including strong retail demand and a bearish grain market could help to explain the rally in part, says Eric Meyer, president of HighGround Dairy, Chicago, in a “Special Report” released this week.

“With balance sheets still somewhat bearish, traders appear to be betting on weaker yields from the U.S. row crops. But weather forecasts could also be causing some concern for dairy traders,” Meyer says. “Weather is the ultimate equalizer in the dairy market as it has the potential to negatively impact production much quicker than negative profit margins can.”

“This may have been the primary catalyst behind the latest move in cheese and milk futures,” Meyer says, noting that bear markets tend to last longer than originally expected, and supply currently still is outpacing demand in most commodity markets around the world.

While cheese may be plentiful in warehouses, it could be prone to periods of near-term tightness for fresh cheese that could cause short-term spikes like the market has seen recently, says Sara Dorland, managing partner with Ceres Dairy Risk Management LLC, Seattle.

She notes USDA’s Dairy Market News reported firm orders and promotions over the past few weeks.

“It is possible fresh cheese tightened as more cheese moves to fulfill orders,” Dorland says. “As a result, some buyers are seeking spot cheese from the CME to fulfill immediate orders.

“That said, there is still considerable cheese in warehouses,” she adds. “The question remains as to whether U.S. demand remains elevated. Current commercial disappearance is outpacing last year. Stronger domestic cheese demand could go a long way to reducing stocks by the end of the year.”

Many analysts do not anticipate the rally will continue much longer.

“If there continues to be interest from buyers, I think there is enough milk in the Midwest to make more spot Cheddar available on the exchange,” says Ben Laine, senior economist at CoBank, Denver. “Demand is very good, but there is plenty of milk being produced and plenty of cheese in storage. I don’t see those factors changing dramatically in 2016.”

CME cheese futures also moved higher this week, with Thursday futures reaching $1.715 for September and settling in the mid-$1.60s for the latter months of 2016.

“Whenever the market hits a low like it did in May, any sign of strength can trigger a fear of missing out in market participants who want to be sure to position themselves in case this is the start of a bigger move,” Laine says.

Mike McCully, owner of The McCully Group LLC, Chicago, notes that with the recent drop in U.S. milk prices, there is an expectation for a contraction in the U.S. dairy herd and lower milk production later this year, which would set the market up for a recovery into 2017.

“However, cow numbers remain high, culling is below a year ago and the rally in cheese prices adds back $2 or more to milk checks,” McCully says. “In short, the contraction in the herd might not happen as margins will recover to break even or above for most farms.”

Meanwhile, CME butter holds strong above $2 per pound, settling at $2.20 today.

“There has been a lot of cream on the market this spring, and multiples have been historically low,” McCully says. “However, that has not translated into a lot of excess bulk butter, or at least that came to the CME.”

McCully notes butter makers have been hesitant to make a lot of surplus bulk butter given the risk of the value of their inventory dropping, and that reluctance has helped to keep prices high.

“After several months of bearish stocks numbers for butter, prices have only moved higher,” he says. “That is the definition of a bull market, and one that seems poised to make another run at high prices this fall.”

Dorland notes as heat begins to pick up, ice cream demand is starting.

“It seems the seasonal shift from churns to ice cream is starting. Over the past two years the shortfall of cream sent butter market and multipliers higher. Currently, available cream may keep prices from climbing, but prices may not fall easily either,” she says.

Dorland adds that butter seems comfortable in the $2-$2.10 range, which seems a reasonable place for it to remain.

“The plentiful cream and butter stocks will weigh on the market, but strong demand and the resilience of butter will continue to be supportive,” Laine adds. “I think the availability will prevent prices from hitting the peaks we saw the last couple of years.”

However, he notes that if futures continue to hold a premium in cheese and butter markets, it will provide some support to the spot markets.

“I expect more volatility with cheese while the market finds a balance between the heavy inventories and the availability of current product,” Laine says. “I would expect cheese to bounce around in its current range with some near-term upside potential.”


OIG: FDA initiation process
for food recalls is inefficient

June 10, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week said its ongoing audit of FDA’s food recall program finds that FDA has not implemented an efficient and effective food recall initiation process to help ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply.

Specifically, FDA does not have policies and procedures to ensure that firms or responsible parties initiate voluntary food recalls promptly, OIG says. As a result, in some cases consumers remained at risk of illness or death for several weeks after FDA was aware of a potentially hazardous food in the supply chain.

OIG suggests FDA update its policies and procedures to instruct its recall staff to establish set time frames for FDA to request that firms voluntarily recall their products and initiate voluntary food recalls.

OIG notes the audit is a follow-up of its June 2011 report, “Review of the Food and Drug Administration’s Monitoring of Imported Food Recalls.” In that audit, OIG found FDA’s food recall program was inadequate because FDA did not have the authority to require firms to recall certain foods and FDA did not always follow its own procedures.

“To help ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, we recommended (in 2011) that FDA consider our findings when implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and follow its own procedures for monitoring recalls. FDA agreed with our recommendation,” OIG says.

In the current report, OIG says preliminary audit results show that for all 30 voluntary recalls in its sample, after FDA first became aware that an adulterated or misbranded product could be in the food supply chain, it did not prescribe a timeline for each firm to initiate a recall. For two recalls, the firms did not initiate the recall of all potentially harmful products until 165 days and 81 days after FDA became aware of the potential contaminations.

OIG says the delays in the firms’ recalls may have occurred because FDA did not have policies and procedures that instruct its recall staff to establish set time frames for FDA to request that firms voluntarily recall their products and for firms to initiate voluntary food recalls.

“As a result, consumers remained at risk of illness or death for several weeks after FDA knew of potentially hazardous food,” OIG says.

OIG cites examples including a series of recalls in 2014 involving various cheese products where at least nine people became ill from Listeria monocytogenes, including one infant who died. According to FDA records, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also linked two fetal losses to these illnesses. Eighty-one days passed from the date FDA became aware of the adulterated product and the date the firm voluntarily recalled all affected products, OIG says.

In a statement on the preliminary audit results, FDA says public health is its top priority and the agency works hard to ensure the U.S. food supply remains among the safest in the world.

During the nearly 3-year period recently reviewed by OIG, FDA oversaw thousands of food recalls, with an average time for recall initiation of less than a week, the agency says.

“A small number of these recalls fell well outside of that average, with months passing before all impacted products were taken off shelves, even though the FDA notified the companies involved of a contamination as soon as it had evidence,” FDA says.

“These delays are unacceptable. While some food recalls are more complicated than others due to the nature of the product(s), contamination and investigation, the recall process should be as swift as possible, and the FDA is already taking concrete steps to address the OIG’s concerns,” the agency says. “These steps include the establishment of a rapid-response team made up of agency leaders and the introduction of new technologies to make the process even swifter.

“FDA will continue to work with the OIG and other stakeholders to make our food safety programs even stronger,” the agency adds.

For more information, contact Amy J. Frontz, assistant inspector general for audit services, at 202-619-1157, email, or visit


Emmi Roth, Meister partner
to launch Kindred Creamery

June 10, 2016

MUSCODA, Wis. ­— Emmi Roth USA, headquartered in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, and Meister Cheese Co., a third-generation specialty cheese manufacturer in Muscoda, Wisconsin, have announced the joint venture launch of the new Kindred Creamery brand of classic specialty American cheese varieties.

“We created the Kindred Creamery brand with a desire to invoke the importance of integrity, equity and responsibility to our rural farmers, our community and our customers,” says Scott Meister, president, Meister Cheese.

All of the milk used for the Kindred Creamery brand is provided via Meister Cheese’s Cows First animal welfare program. This program requires the cows to have unfettered access to the outdoors, to be free of rbST and prohibits tail docking and animal byproducts in feed. Meister Cheese partners with dairy farmers who combine the traditions of farming with the methods of modern technology, and farms are paid up to an additional $1 per hundredweight premium for adhering to the Cows First protocol. Farms within the program are annually certified by the third party auditor Validus and are open to customer visits.

“The synergies and complementary strengths between our companies is what led to this partnership,” says Tim Omer, president and managing director for Emmi Roth USA, who notes that both companies have the ability to make small batches but also truckloads of cheese. “Meister’s manufacturing capabilities and our artisan-with-scale aptitude have combined to create a new, exciting brand in Kindred Creamery.”

“Being part of the Cow’s First milk program has really given our third-generation, family farm a sense of pride and financial vitality — all for doing things we already believe in,” says Michelle Winkers of MJJ Farm LLC.

Kindred Creamery has made its debut on retailer shelves, and varieties will be available in 7-ounce wedges and 5-pound random weight loaves. The Kindred Creamery flavors include Sharp Cheddar, Medium Cheddar, Mild Cheddar, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Monterey Jack, Natural Smoked Gouda, Sweet Fire Mango Jack, Spicy Sriracha Jack, Wild Ginseng & Garlic Jack, Ghost Pepper Colby Jack, Hickory Smoked Cheddar and Forage Mushroom & Spring Onion Jack.

“I am excited to introduce the unique and interesting flavors under the Kindred Creamery banner,” says Vicki Thingvold, chief of flavor development and co-owner of Meister Cheese. “Our cheesemakers have deployed our 100 years of Cheddar- and Jack-making experience in offering our finest Wisconsin State Brand American cheeses.”

“Kindred Creamery will fill a void in the American cheese market,” says Tony Salathe, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Emmi Roth USA. “With Emmi Roth’s and Meister’s rich, award-winning history in cheesemaking, the resulting product line is robust with an array of enticing flavors we are pleased to be rolling out.”


DFA announces expansion
plans in Cass City, Mich.

June 10, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dairy Farmers of America recently announced plans to expand its Cass City, Michigan, facility. The plant, constructed in 2013, currently processes up to 3 million pounds of milk into cream, condensed whole milk and condensed skim milk.

“When we made the initial investment in the Cass City plant, we were already considering its expansion,” says Greg Wickham, chief financial officer, DFA. “The time is right for this continued investment, as Michigan’s milk supply continues to grow but the processing capacity in the region has not kept pace.”

Wickham adds the plant’s location makes it ideal to provide both domestic and global customers with high-quality dairy ingredients.

Cooperative leaders are continuing to finalize details of the expansion and are working closely with local and state agencies on appropriate incentives.

DFA notes the expansion of the 33,000-square-foot plant is consistent with the cooperative’s strategic plan to create supply chain efficiencies and increase commercial investments to bring increased value to the co-op’s farmer-owners.

In addition, the plant reflects DFA’s focus on sustainability and is designed to recover and reuse water in plant cleanup operations, DFA notes.


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
June 24, 2016

Barrels: $1.5350 (NC)
Blocks: $1.5125 (NC)

Click here for more market activity
Cheese Production
U.S. Total April
991.693 mil. lbs.

Milk Production
U.S. Total May
18.645 bil. lbs.

Guest Columnist

Guerilla marketing

Mike Wimble, Yancey’s Fancy

Exploring pizza cheese potential in a more competitive world

Merle McNeil, U.S. Dairy Export Council

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