Like every good Midwesterner, I love dairy products. My love for cheese particularly may boarder on the side of obscene, but I will not be shamed. So, I was understandably excited when my family and I elected to visit the Tillamook County Cheese Factory, home of, you guessed it, Tillamook Cheddar.
This cheese is quite delicious, but the industry is also an edifying pursuit. Tillamook is a co-op that was founded in 1909. Dairy farms in the region decided to pool their efforts instead of completing with each other.
Which gets me to thinking about Big Dairy. After speaking with an industry insider, it seems that it’s just not cost effective to run a small scale creamery. This is partly due to the large overhead costs associated with running a creamery, but the other bigger issues revolves around the location and contract nature of the dairy industry.
Much like meat, most dairy farmers are contracted suppliers for large creameries, such as Nestle, Kraft, and Land o’ Lakes. A small scale creamery will have difficulty competing with the big guys, by sheer economy of scale. Nestle tops the list of the Dairy 100 this year, with it’s American division reporting over 11 billion dollars in sales. The entire list boasts sales exceeding $100 billion.
I find it interesting to note however that 3 of the largest 10 dairy processors are producer owned co-ops, much like Tillamook, that includes Minnesota’s own Land o’ Lakes, which occupies the number 5 spot on the list.
The response to this quandary for those interested in breaking into the cheese biz is, not surprisingly, my favorite animal: the goat.
The popularity of goat cheese has grown quickly and steadily over the past decade. Is there anything goats can’t do?
Goat cheese and barrel aged honey. Specialty food market, I’ve got you cornered.