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Child nutrition, ag funding bills advance in Congress

May 20, 2016

WASHINGTON — Dairy leaders this week applauded the House Education and Workforce Committee for including key dairy provisions in legislation it approved Wednesday.

Introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 reauthorizes and reforms federal child nutrition programs to give states and schools flexibility in providing children with access to healthy meals without additional or prohibitive costs, the committee says.

The legislation requires regular review of federal nutrition standards to ensure they are based on sound science, reflect the input of school leaders and meet the needs of all students.

Dairy stakeholders note a bipartisan amendment by Reps. G.T. Thompson, R-Pa., and Joe Courtney, D-Conn., specifically targeted at addressing declining school milk consumption was unanimously approved.

“Fluid milk consumption in schools has declined in recent years, and in fact most Americans are drinking less milk than recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA),” says J.

David Carlin, senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “The fact that the school milk provisions have bipartisan support in this bill is an indication of how important it is to promote better consumption of milk by the nation’s students.”

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), says the bill takes an important step toward reversing the decline in school milk consumption by asking USDA to examine how to ensure that kids are getting enough milk.

“By better aligning the school lunch program with the dietary guidelines, options including 1 percent flavored milk will be back on the lunch tray in school cafeterias as a result of this legislation,” Mulhern says.

The dairy organizations voiced their support for the Thompson-Courtney amendment in a joint letter sent Tuesday to Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Robert Scott, D-Va. — committee chair and ranking member, respectively — of the House Education Committee.

That amendment bolsters recommendations made in the DGA, released earlier this year, which says current laws should continue to make milk integral to all the child nutrition programs, IDFA and NMPF note. It also requires adjustments as necessary to promote better consumption of milk by the nation’s students and to permit schools to offer all varieties consistent with the DGA. The bill provides innovative approaches to meet the needs of lactose-intolerant children as well.

The bill now will move to consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a child nutrition bill earlier this year, but it has not advanced through the full Senate.

The nonprofit School Nutrition Association (SNA) voiced concerns about the House bill passed this week.

“Although the House bill provides a much-appreciated and necessary increase to federal reimbursements for school breakfast, portions of the bill will cause irreparable harm to federal school meal programs,” says Jean Ronnei, president, SNA.

SNA notes the bill establishes a block grant pilot project in three states that will cut funds for school meal programs and nullify crucial federal mandates, including student eligibility rules for free and reduced price meals and nutrition standards.

According to SNA, the block grant pilot would allow three states to abandon federal requirements, including mandates on student eligibility for free and reduced price meals and nutrition standards for meals. School meal programs in participating states would lose critical funds under the proposal.

For example, the block grant would not include federal reimbursements for meals provided to full paid students or the additional 6-cent lunch reimbursement earned under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, SNA says. Funding provided under the block grant would remain static at fiscal 2016 rates for the entirety of the 3-year grant cycle.

“The block grant pilot is the opening salvo to an aggressive, alarming attack on the future of school meals,” Ronnei says. “The provision opens the door to a broader effort to block grant school meal programs nationwide.

“Congress must come together to pass a bipartisan child nutrition reauthorization bill that provides additional funding for school meal programs and includes the Senate agreement on school nutrition standards,” Ronnei adds.

Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, says it would be “unwise to roll back the school meal standards, and I urge Congress to stay the course for the sake of our children.

“USDA looks forward to working with Congress, schools, parents and communities to continue to improve the health and well-being of the next generation,” he adds.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies earlier this week approved a $147.7 billion appropriations bill to support federal agriculture and nutrition programs in fiscal year 2017. The bill was approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The legislation recommends $21.25 billion in discretionary funding, $250 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Mandatory funding in the bill totals $126.5 billion, for a total of $147.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding. The overall funding level is $21.7 billion below President Obama’s budget request and $7.1 billion above the fiscal 2016 enacted level.

The committee-approved measure supports USDA agriculture, rural development and conservation programs, and food and drug safety. It also provides nutrition assistance for children, families and seniors, as well as creates incentives for military veterans to enter careers in agriculture.

“This appropriations bill would help protect public health, enhance agricultural research and promote rural development throughout the country,” says Appropriations Committee Chair Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

The House Appropriations Committee passed their version of the bill last month.


Cowgirl Creamery, Tomales Bay Foods bought by Emmi

May 20, 2016

PETALUMA, Calif. — Switzerland-based Emmi Group this week announced it has acquired cheese company Cowgirl Creamery Corp. and the associated Tomales Bay Foods Inc., based in Petaluma, California. Emmi says the purchase will enable the company to strengthen its position in the area of sustainably produced organic cow’s milk speciality cheeses. In addition, Emmi will benefit from the strong voice of the “Cowgirls” in the American artisan cheese community, company officials say.

Emmi currently generates 44 percent of its sales abroad: one-third through exports from Switzerland and two-thirds through products made locally by Emmi subsidiaries, the company says. International growth is a part of Emmi’s strategy and is achieved both organically and through further acquisitions.

Of particular interest are companies in niche markets which operate in countries where Emmi already is active.

Tomales Bay Foods Inc. and the Cowgirl Creamery Corp. were founded in 1997 by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith in Point Reyes, California. Both women have many years of experience in famous Californian kitchens and learned the craft of cheesemaking from scratch.

Urs Riedener, CEO, Emmi, says Conley and Smith have poured their passion for good, healthy food into supporting sustainable and organic farming in Marin County. They also have worked tirelessly to preserve agricultural land and to promote organic farming and traditional artisan cheesemaking — this enthusiasm is transferred to the many customers in their two Cowgirl Creamery retail locations at the San Francisco Ferry Building and in Point Reyes Station, he says.

Conley and Smith also operate a successful online store, which offers a selection of fine cheese from the United States, Great Britain and other European countries.

“Tomales Bay Foods and Cowgirl Creamery are an excellent addition to our portfolio of sustainably produced premium specialty cheeses in the U.S.,” Riedener says. “Together with Cypress Grove Chevre and Redwood Hill, the two companies will form a powerful network for extraordinary dairy products in California.” (For more information on Emmi’s acquisition of Redwood Hill earlier this year, see “Emmi buys Redwood Hill to expand goat’s milk products” in the Dec. 4, 2015, issue of Cheese Market News.)

The product portfolio of traditionally produced specialties includes soft, semi-hard and aged artisan cheeses. All products included in the range are organic, with the milk used for processing sourced exclusively from Marin and Sonoma counties in Northern California. Mt. Tam — Cowgirl Creamery’s most popular cheese — is named after Mount Tamalpais, the highest peak in the Marin Hills.

Emmi notes it has extensive experience in North America and has continually increased its sales and earnings in its most important international market in recent years.

In an announcement on Cowgirl Creamery’s website and Facebook page, Conley and Smith note the decision to merge comes just eight months short of the creamery’s 20th anniversary.

“In making this significant business decision, we ultimately had to listen to our hearts,” Conley and Smith say. “Continuing support for the excellent organic dairies, the artisan cheesemakers that we have worked with over the years, growth opportunities for our team, and the legacy and growth of our companies were of the utmost importance to us. We felt with great confidence that we have found a like-minded, value-aligned partner in Emmi and indeed one who will be instrumental in securing the future of the business.”

Emmi will take full control of Tomales Bay Foods Inc. and Cowgirl Creamery Corp. by the end of this month. Both companies will continue to operate as separate entities on the market. Conley and Smith will remain as managing directors, president and vice president. The parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price.

Conley and Smith note they soon will be able to build a new production facility in Petaluma as well and are looking to bring cottage cheese to the market in addition to continuing to make the cheese they are currently producing.

“This merger also allows Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods access to expertise in traditional European cheesemaking techniques, as well as opportunities to collaborate on equipment, innovation, food safety, waste management and alternative energy,” Conley and Smith say. “We expect our cheese lineup to grow creatively and in a sustainable manner, always taking into account the farmers we work with, along with the animals and the farm land we rely on.”


Milk production, dairy cow numbers increase in April

May 20, 2016

WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 23 major milk-producing states totaled 16.84 billion pounds in April, up 1.2 percent from April 2015, according to preliminary data released Thursday by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

March revised production, at 17.23 billion pounds in the 23 major states, was up 1.8 percent from March 2015. The March revision represents an increase of 7 million pounds or less than 0.1 percent from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

For the entire United States, production is estimated at 18.00 billion pounds in April, up 1.2 percent from April 2015.

There were 9.33 million cows on U.S. farms in April, NASS says, 15,000 head more than a year earlier and 4,000 head more than in March 2016. Production per cow averaged 1,929 pounds in April, up 20 pounds from a year earlier.

Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 1,948 pounds in April, 19 pounds above April 2015. This is the highest production per cow for the month of April since the 23-state series began in 2003, NASS says.

The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major states in April was 8.65 million head, 21,000 head more than in April 2015 and 4,000 head more than in March 2016.

California led the nation’s milk production with 3.48 billion pounds of milk in April, down 3.3 percent from its production a year earlier. The decline was driven by both a drop in cow numbers and in production per cow. California was home to 1.77 million cows in April, down 6,000 head from a year earlier but unchanged from March 2016. Production per cow in California in April averaged 1,965 pounds, down 60 pounds from April 2015.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin, the nation’s No. 2 milk-producing state, saw production climb 4.6 percent versus a year earlier to 2.51 billion pounds of milk in April. Wisconsin was home to 1.28 million cows in April, up 1,000 head from a year earlier but down 1,000 head from March 2016. Production per Wisconsin cow averaged 1,960 pounds in April, up 85 pounds from April 2015.


Bleating Heart, Point Reyes win California fair

May 20, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Bay Blue made by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Point Reyes Station, was named Best of California Semi-Soft Cow’s Milk Cheese and Best of Show Cow’s Milk Cheese at this year’s California State Fair Commercial Cheese Competition. Funky Bleats from Bleating Heart Cheese, Tomales, was named Best of California Mixed Milk Original Cheese and Best of Show-Other Milk Type Cheese.

Thirty-four California cheese companies, ranging from small artisan producers to international distributors with large-scale production, entered the competition this year. A panel of 12 judges tasted and evaluated 169 California cheeses at Cal Expo last week.

The California State Fair will recognize Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. and Bleating Heart Cheese at a special press event on the steps of the State Capitol on June 23, along with the best of show winners from the fair’s commercial wine, craft brew and olive oil competitions. The Best of California award winners are invited to sample their cheese at a special tasting reception at the annual California State Fair Gala June 23 at 5:30 p.m.

The 2016 California State Fair runs July 8-24. During the fair a special “Cheese Shop” sampling center and exhibit will include a display of the award-winning cheese and host a variety of California cheese producers who will be sampling their cheeses.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese’s Bay Blue was joined by several other gold medals for the company, including Point Reyes’ Original Blue, which won a gold in the Blue-Veined Cheese Class, and Toma, which won a gold in the Cow Milk California Originals Class.

In addition to its gold medal and Best of Show award for Funky Bleats, Bleating Heart Cheese also received a gold and Best of California Sheep’s Milk Semi-Hard Cheese award for Fat Bottom Girl, a gold for Moolicious Blue in the Blue-Veined Cheese Class and a gold for Shepherdista in the Goat, Sheep, Water Buffalo or Mixed Milk Semi-Hard Cheese Class.

California Dairies Inc., Visalia, won the Best of California Cow’s Milk Soft Cheese with its gold medal cream cheese.

Cypress Grove, Arcata, won Best of California Goat’s Milk Soft Cheese with its gold medal Fromage Blanc and Best of California Goat’s Milk Semi-Soft Cheese with its gold medal Truffle Tremor. Other medals for Cypress Grove included golds for Bermuda Triangle in the Open Category Goat Semi-Soft Cheese Class, Humboldt Fog Mini in the White Surface Mold-Open Semi-Soft Cheese Class, PsycheDillic in the Soft Fresh Cheese-Flavored Class, Purple Haze in the Soft Cheese-Flavored Class, Sgt. Pepper in the Soft Cheese-Flavored Class, and Truffle Tremor Mini in the White Surface Mold-Flavor Added Semi-Soft Cheese Class.

Fiscalini Cheese, Modesto, won a gold medal and Best of California Cow’s Milk Original Cheese with its Lionza, and its Bandage Wrapped Cheddar was named Best of California Cow’s Milk Semi-Hard Cheese. In addition, Fiscalini’s Smoked Scamorza won a gold medal in the Pasta Filata class.

Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Willows, was named winner of the Best of California Cultured Cheese with its Cultured Classics Organic Creme Fraiche. Other gold medals for the company included Bella Capra Goat Chèvre in the Soft Fresh Cheese-Open Category, Graziers Grass-Fed Raw Milk Monterey Jack in the Monterey Jack Class, and Graziers Grass-Fed Raw Milk Medium Cheddar in the Medium Cheddar (Aged 3-6 Months) Class.

Valley Ford Cheese Co., Valley Ford, won the Best of California Hard Cheese with its Estero Gold Reserve Montasio, a gold medal winner in the Grating or Grana Style Class.

Other gold medal award winners were:

• Bellwether Farms, Valley Ford, with Blackstone in the Other Semi-Hard Cheese Class.

• Cacique, City of Industry, with Panela in the Hispanic Style Semi-Hard Cheese Class and Quesadilla in the Hispanic Style Semi-Hard Cheese Class.

• Cowgirl Creamery, Petaluma, with Mt. Tam in the White Surface Mold Open Semi-Soft Cheese Class and Wagon Wheel in the Open Category-Goat, Sheep, Buffalo, Cow or Mixed Semi-Hard Cheese Class.

• El Mexicano, San Jose, with its Queso Casero in the Hispanic Style Semi-Soft Cheese Class and its Queso Oaxaca in the Hispanic Style Semi-Soft Cheese Class.

• Joseph Farms, Atwater, with its Marbled Jack in the Other Semi-Hard Cheese Class, Medium Cheddar in the Medium Cheddar (Aged 3-6 Months) Class, Mild Cheddar in the Cheddar Aged Over 30 Days Class, Pepper Jack in the Other Semi-Hard Cheese Class, and Premium Extra Sharp Cheddar in the Cheddar Aged Over 6 Months Class.

• Laura Chenel Chèvre Inc., Sonoma, with its Chef’s Chèvre and Original Log, both in the Soft Fresh Cheese-Open Category, Goat Class.

• Marin French Cheese, Petaluma, with its Dark Moon in the White Surface Mold-Brie Class, Petite Creme in the White Surface Mold-Brie Class, Petite Jalapeno in the White Surface Mold-Flavor Added Class, Petite Truffle in the White Surface Mold-Flavor Added Class, Schloss in the Washed Rind-Schloss Type Class, Supreme in the White Surface Mold-Open Class, and Traditional Brie in the White Surface Mold-Brie Class.

• Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Nicasio, with its Foggy Morning in the Fromage Blanc Class and San Geronimo in the Open Category Cow Semi-Soft Cheese Class.

• Nicolau Farms, Modesto, with its Quatro Pepe in the Goat Milk California Originals Class.

• Pennyroyal Farm, Boonville, with its Bollie’s Mollies in the Sheep or Mixed Milk California Originals Class, Chive Flower Laychee in the Soft Fresh Cheese-Flavored Class and Laychee in the Soft Fresh Cheese-Open Category, Sheep, Water, Buffalo or Mixed Class.

• Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol, with its Bucharet Goat Cheese in the Open Category Goat Semi-Soft Cheese Class and Goat Milk Feta in the Feta-All Milk Class.

• Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, Petaluma, with its Monterey Jack in the Monterey Jack Class.

• Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co., Escalon, with its Chipotle Gouda in the Other Semi-Soft Cheese Class, Garlic Herb Gouda in the Other Semi-Soft Cheese Class, Jalapeno Pepper Gouda in the Other Semi-Soft Cheese Class and Plain Gouda aged 2-4 months in the Other Semi-Soft Cheese Class.


Emmi Roth thinks outside the box to develop unique artisan cheeses

By Kate Sander

MONROE, Wis. — At Emmi Roth USA Inc., cheesemaking isn’t just a business, it’s an art, says Tim Omer, the company’s president and managing director.

While Emmi Roth USA has a known footprint in the United States, production volume of many cheeses isn’t as large as some might assume, Omer says. Most of Emmi Roth’s cheeses are produced in small batches.

“We’re big, but in a small niche market,” Omer says, noting that artisanal cheese production across the United States is still a small percentage of the 11.8 billion pounds of total cheese produced nationwide last year.

The potential for growth in the category, though, is “tremendous,” Omer says, and small batch production allows the company to focus on quality and creativity and meet the demands of discerning consumers looking for fine specialty cheese.

“We’re a fine specialty cheese company. We provide true innovation that resonates with cheesemongers,” says Omer, noting that he was hired by the company in 2014 to help tell the story of how fantastic Emmi Roth’s cheeses are.

Emmi Roth USA has always made great cheese, he says, but the company presently is making a concerted effort to share the story of its artisan production. That effort got a boost this spring when the company wowed the worldwide industry with its Roth Grand Cru Surchoix, which was crowned overall champion at the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest. It was the first time a U.S. cheese had won the biennial contest since 1988.

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Cheesemakers see opportunity for specialty organic offerings

May 13, 2016

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — As organic food options have entered mainstream markets, some cheesemakers have found this an ideal time to switch to or add new varieties of organic cheeses.

Major national organic brands such as Organic Valley and Horizon have long offered organic cheese varieties, but smaller cheesemakers now are entering this segment with more specialty offerings.

And while still a small portion of the cheese case, organic cheeses have grown significantly over the last year, particularly outside of the traditional natural food stores. According to SPINS data provided by Organic Valley, organic cheese volume has grown 27.2 percent in mainstream food channels and 31.5 percent in multi-outlet channels over the 52 weeks ending March 20, 2016. Growth in natural food channels over this period was 7.1 percent.

“When Organic Valley started, it was the hard-core organic pioneers searching it out in natural channels,” says Andrew Westrich, brand manager, cheese, Organic Valley. “What we’re seeing now is more and more mainstream retailers picking up organic as people ask for it.”

As they start filling their carts with organic produce and milk, consumers now are increasingly looking for other organic items such as cheese and eggs, Westrich adds.

A November 2015 report from market research firm Mintel found that consumers, when asked to create their ideal natural cheese, chose “no additives or preservatives” as the top claim (51 percent) while “organic” came in second (30 percent). Parents (61 percent) also were most likely to agree with the statement that “organic cheese is healthier.”

• Making the shift

As the demand for organic cheeses grows, so have the number of options. Westrich says Organic Valley has increased the frequency of its organic cheese promotions as competition has increased.

“There definitely is more pressure. There are more private labels, especially when you look at mainstream retailers,” he says. “We see other competitors out there, too, such as regional players increasing production to take advantage of growth in organic cheese. No doubt competition has increased the last couple of years.”

Cedar Grove Cheese Inc., Plain, Wisconsin, is expanding the variety of organic cheeses it offers at retail to include not only traditional cheeses like Cheddar and Monterey Jack but also organic versions of some of its more upscale Alpine-style, Gouda and aged cheeses. The company’s president, Robert Wills, says Cedar Grove in the past has made organic cheese for others, including the Horizon brand, but now he sees the opportunity for a smaller company to meet consumer demand.

“Our sense is the market is growing a lot. The companies that were in first have become really large and don’t represent as well what organic customers are looking for,” Wills says. “I think there’s a lot of interest in local, quality and integrity of production process, and we can help people get what they are looking for.”

In addition to meeting consumer demand, Wills says part of the reason Cedar Grove decided to increase its organic presence now is the availability of organic milk.

“For years, it was a struggle to keep up and fill orders. We didn’t try because the milk supply had not caught up with demand,” he says. “But now more farmers are converting to organic, and especially with the spring flush, there is lots more organic milk available.”

Cedar Grove currently is producing and aging its new organic cheese varieties and is making distribution plans for the Midwest and other select markets. Wills says the company will target more conventional markets with its organic cheeses, as well as some smaller independent stores.

“Oddly enough, some of the organic markets are the most difficult to change. Some of them have gone pretty big and have connections with some of the other large manufacturing companies,” Wills says. “We’re finding much more potential integrating within product offerings within conventional stores.”

Another cheesemaker expanding its organic selection is Central Point, Oregon-based Rogue Creamery, which has transitioned nine of its more than 20 total cheese to organic. The company aims to shift its entire line of cheeses to organic by June 2017.

Rogue Creamery has been USDA Certified Organic since February and now is selling organic Blues and Cheddars, including: Organic Oregon Blue, Organic Oregonzola Blue, Organic Crater Lake Blue, Organic Flora Nelle Blue, Organic Tolman Blue, Organic La Di Da Lavender, Organic Cheddar and Organic Cheddar Curds.

The decision to shift entirely to organic goes back almost 15 years to when owners David Gremmels and Cary Bryant purchased the company in 2002, says Francis Plowman, marketing and merchandising director, Rogue Creamery. The company has been building its organic milk supply over the past several years and in 2012 purchased its own dairy farm.

“It’s part of our whole story — it always has been our goal to go organic and our goal to produce our own milk, controlling every aspect of this from breeds and herds, to what they’re eating, to irrigation and animal husbandry.” Plowman says.

• Room to grow

Rogue Creamery’s organic cheeses cost approximately $2 per pound more than the conventional varieties, Plowman says, but the change has been well-received by its customers.

“We have had a very good relationship with Whole Foods and they were very supportive of our organic direction. We knew that was a very big component of our business,” Plowman says.

“Wegmans, another large customer, also has been very supportive of organic cheeses.”

In addition to its existing customers, Rogue Creamery sees its shift to organic opening doors to new markets, including local food co-ops that are looking for higher-quality organic cheeses.

While the company has planned its shift to organic for more than a decade, the recent trend and demand for organic and local options has helped the transition.

“When you tell customers it’s organic, that answers a lot of questions,” Plowman says. “It’s built into people’s minds, the high standards of practice, ethics and sustainability. Once you say, ‘We’re USDA Organic Certified,’ that makes a quality statement of its own to certain people.”

Wills says he sees a lot of room for growth in the organic cheese sector, particularly with growing interest by consumers in non-GMO products. While non-GMO is part of USDA Organic certification, Cedar Grove is looking to add a non-GMO certification to its organic cheese packaging to help market to people who are particularly interested in that issue.

Westrich notes that Organic Valley is seeing particular success in its value-added and specialty organic cheeses. Shreds and snacking cheeses, for example, have seen great volume growth as consumers look for more convenient and high-quality options for their families. On the specialty side, he says, the company’s Grassmilk line and new imported Kingdom Cheddars offer something unique for the cheese board.

“When you start thinking about the premium channel, with our Kingdom or Grassmilk cheeses, we start to see millennials and foodies who want an interesting story to tell their friends when getting together,” Westrich says.

With three varieties launched earlier this year, the Kingdom Cheddar line resulted from a partnership between Organic Valley and its sister co-op in the United Kingdom, Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo). The cheeses are hand-cheddared and made with USDA-certified organic milk from 10 small farms in England, then sent to La Farge, Wisconsin, for cutting, wrapping and marketing by Organic Valley.

“When you think about specialty cheeses, this is one area where organics have a lot of room to grow,” Westrich says. “We’re hearing from some of our retail customers who have specifically asked for more organic, grass-fed specialty cheeses. Kingdom fits the bill ... we feel we’ve got a great product that speaks to some of the things specialty consumers are looking fore. There’s a sense of place, story and terroir.”

When people choose organic cheeses, Westrich says, issues such as non-GMO, human animal practices and pasture-based, small family farms are motivating factors. However, quality and flavor remain important as ever.

“When going up against conventional products, there’s a significant cost difference. As organic goes into the mainstream channel more, it’s not good enough that organic cheeses just be organic, ” Westrich says.

“In the past, a core group of organic consumers were mostly supporting the organic movement. Now with mainstream consumers, their motivation is a little different,” he adds. “If paying more, the quality and taste should be better than the conventional option. It puts even more onus on organic manufacturers to make sure they have the highest quality and best flavor on the shelf.”


U.S., Canada sign agreement on food safety equivalency

May 13, 2016

WASHINGTON — The United States and Canada recently signed an agreement that recognizes each country’s food safety system as comparable, allowing closer regulatory cooperation as well as less duplication.

FDA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada May 4 signed the Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement, which establishes a framework for regulatory cooperation in a number of areas from scientific collaboration to outbreak response.

“This arrangement is based on reciprocal food safety systems assessments,” says Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA. “The arrangement offers benefits to each country and will consider the oversight of the partner county when prioritizing inspectional activities.”

The arrangement also is part of the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, in which the countries intend to better align their food safety regulatory systems, reduce unnecessary duplication, enhance information sharing and leverage possible resources to better meet public health objectives.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) notes that Grade A milk and milk products, which are covered in the United States under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), are not included in the scope of the agreement. However, in February the United States and Canada formally agreed during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations that each would conduct an equivalency assessment on the other’s food safety system with respect to “milk and milk products” as defined in the PMO, according to John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards. This process still is pending.

In the meantime, IDFA says, most cheese and ice cream products will benefit from increased alignment of the two countries’ food safety guidelines and regulations.


Burnett Dairy Cooperative acquires Cady Creek Farms

May 13, 2016

GRANTSBURG, Wis. — Burnett Dairy Cooperative this week announced it has acquired a 100-percent interest in Cady Creek Farms LLC, a retail deli cheese company located in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Cady Creek Farms previously was a 50/50 partnership between Burnett Dairy Cooperative and Dairy Deli Solutions.

The purchase will serve to provide a more integrated product portfolio of cheese products and go-to-market sales approach for the overall organization, says Dan Dowling, president and CEO, Burnett Dairy Cooperative. He notes Burnett Dairy will continue to provide employment to all of the employees of Cady Creek Farms and will maintain existing operations in Green Bay.

“This strategic acquisition will allow our farmer-owned cooperative the ability to better serve our customers and marketplace with innovative products while continuing to provide the same wholesome, quality products our customers and consumers have come to know and trust” Dowling says.

Cady Creek Farms was formed and created in 1998 as a partnership between Dale and Wendy Marcott of Cady Cheese Factory and Pete DeMars and John Landmeyer of Dairy Deli Solutions. In 2013, Burnett Dairy Cooperative acquired Cady Cheese Factory and as a result of the acquisition, assumed a 50-percent ownership interest in Cady Creek Farms LLC.

“We will proudly continue to offer the Cady Creek Farms brand of products that are in retail deli today; furthermore, this will serve as a strategic expansion to the Burnett Dairy Cooperative family of brands including Burnett Dairy and Wood River Creamery found in the retail dairy and specialty cheese cases,” Dowling says.


USDA forecasts more milk, lower prices this year

May 13, 2016

MADISON, Wis. — USDA bumped its 2016 milk production forecast up by 600 million pounds to 212.4 billion pounds in its monthly “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates” (WASDE) report released this week as the nation’s cow inventory is expected to expand slightly and growth in milk per cow during the first half of the year is forecast higher.

In addition, the WASDE report included its first forecasts for 2017. The initial projection for next year’s milk production is 215.2 billion pounds.

The monthly report raised the 2016 forecast for dairy imports on both a fat basis and a skim-solids basis to 7.7 billion pounds and 6.4 billion pounds, respectively. The 2016 export forecast was increased to 8.9 billion pounds on a fat basis, but exports on a skim-solids basis, at 36.2 billion pounds, were unchanged from last month’s report.

USDA lowered its 2016 cheese, butter and nonfat dry milk (NDM) price forecasts due to weaker demand and larger supplies, but the whey price forecast was increased. Cheese in 2016 is now forecast to average in the $1.455-$1.505 per pound range, down from $1.510-$1.560 forecast last month. Butter is forecast at $1.985-$2.065, down from $2.005-$2.085. NDM is forecast at $0.740-$0.780, down from $0.760-$0.800. Dry whey is increased to $0.235-$0.265, up from $0.230-$0.260.

Milk price forecasts are lowered due to the decrease in product prices. Class III milk is forecast to average $13.15-$13.65 per hundredweight in 2016, down from $13.65-$14.15 forecast last month.

The Class IV price in 2016 is forecast at $12.65-$13.25, down from $12.90-$13.50. The 2016 all-milk price is forecast at $14.60-$15.10, down from last month’s forecast of $15.00-$15.50.
WASDE’s initial 2017 projections forecast cheese to average $1.540-$1.640 next year.

The 2017 Class III milk price is forecast at $14.05-$15.05, and the 2017 Class IV milk price is forecast at $13.15-$14.25. The 2017 all-milk price is forecast at $15.25-$16.25.


U.S. CME cheese prices under pressure as milk flows to vats

May 6, 2016

By Alyssa Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — Recent media reports of “too much cheese in the U.S.” come as little surprise to market analysts who have been watching U.S. Cheddar stocks climb to sky-high levels in recent months.

What’s important to note, however, is that while U.S. cheese stocks may be at levels not seen since the 1980s, U.S. domestic demand for cheese also has been strong, says Eric Meyer, president of HighGround Dairy, Chicago.

“While we have a high level of inventory, we also have strong domestic demand,” Meyer says. “We’ve known for some time this is an oversupplied market.”

Cheese vats throughout the Midwest are getting little to no rest as high volumes of milk intakes show little sign of slowing, says USDA’s Dairy Market News.

Meyer notes as cheese stocks have climbed, domestic demand continued to keep Cheddar prices elevated at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

“We’ve been talking about the possibility of $1.30 cheese since last September, but prices were buoyed by domestic demand,” he says.

Now, those lower prices are a reality, as CME Cheddar barrels and blocks have trended downward through the $1.30s this week, settling at $1.3000 and $1.3050 per pound, respectively, on Friday.

“The fundamentals of the U.S. dairy market are finally coming home to roost,” Meyer says.

He notes high inventory levels are beginning to crowd cheese storage capacity.

“If you can’t store it, you have to get rid of it, so we are seeing a lot of cheese show up at the exchange now,” he says.

Analysts agree the biggest factor influencing the growth of U.S. cheese stocks — and weighing on CME prices — is a flowing milk supply.

Sara Dorland, managing partner with Ceres Dairy Risk Management LLC, Seattle, says CME cheese price declines could continue in the near term if milk production does not slow down.

The silver lining to lower cheese prices, however, is a price point that is more competitive on the export market, she notes.

“These price levels make us more competitive internationally,” she says. “We’re not fully back in the game, but we’re getting close.” She notes assistance from the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) export assistance program could help to boost chances of stronger export numbers.

Mike North, president of Commodity Risk Management Group, Platteville, Wisconsin, agrees, noting the U.S. dollar is weakening as well.

However, the question is whether the world needs cheese right now, Meyer says, noting cheese supplies are growing in Europe and New Zealand as well.

North says lower cheese prices typically lead to lower milk prices, which will begin to signal to U.S. dairy producers that production needs to slow.

“Milk production is the key to this conversation,” he says.

The issue of milk flow isn’t isolated to the United States, either — it’s happening globally, North notes.

“The world is flush with milk,” he says. “When we talk about lower prices and flowing milk production, that’s worldwide.”

Meyer agrees. “Overall milk supply globally is too strong,” he says. “It’s slowly turning around, but it’s going to take some time.”

Dairy Market News says as CME Cheddar prices are decreasing, some manufacturers are reporting an increase in sales.

“This movement of cheese seems to be giving some relief to the inventory pressure felt across the Central region,” Dairy Market News says. “A handful of cheese producers report being content with their current stock levels. However, other processors have seen a slowdown in the market and believe buyers are holding out to see if prices will continue to drop. Overall, the market undertone is unsettled.”


Feta’s popularity, new uses growing within the industry

May 6, 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: Feta.

By Chelsey Dequaine

MADISON, Wis. — With an increase on menus and in households in recent years, Feta has proved itself to be more than just a salad topping.

On U.S. restaurant menus, Feta is most frequently featured on pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Feta also can be found enhancing breakfast/egg dishes, burgers and pastas. Menu mentions of Feta are up 17 percent over the last five years per Technomic Inc., a research and consulting firm servicing the food and foodservice industry.

Feta was first made in Greece in the 17th century from sheep’s or goat’s milk, according to Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB).

Cheesemakers refer to Feta as “pickled” after formation because it is packed in brine, which produces a tart, salty flavor and gives the cheese a crumbly, moist texture. The brine preserves the cheese six months longer than most fresh cheeses.

Feta’s appearance is chalky and white. Plain and flavored Feta, such as tomato, basil, black pepper, garlic, herbs and dill, is available in a variety of formats, including chunks in tubs and pails, random-weight pieces and crumbles.

Wisconsin produces more Feta than any other state. According to USDA, the United States produced 112.5 million pounds of Feta in 2015 (a 6.5-percent increase from 2014), of which Wisconsin produced 86.8 million pounds.

Volume sales of fixed-weight Feta in retail and convenience outlets reached 27.4 million pounds, up 3.4 percent compared to the prior year (during the latest 52 weeks ending March 20), according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) data courtesy of Dairy Management Inc. Ninety-one percent of sales on a pound basis are plain/unflavored Feta, showing a growth of 4.5 percent over the past year.
About 9 percent of Feta sales on a pound basis are flavored, such as sweet, savory and spicy. The flavored segment fell 5.8 percent over the past year. About 18 percent of all U.S. households purchase Feta, according to IRI.

Upper-income households are the predominant buyers of Feta, accounting for 61 percent of Feta sales on a pound basis, according to demographic data for fixed-weight Feta sales.

Retail volume sales of Feta have risen 3.4 percent over the last year (latest 52 weeks ending April 17 per IRI). Three-quarters of Feta sold at retail is in crumbled form, while one-quarter of retail Feta volume is sold in chunk form.

In 2002, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a council regulation on the registration of the Greek “Feta” cheese as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) produced with sheep’s milk and up to 30 percent goat’s milk. According to the adopted proposal, “Feta” cheese only can be produced in certain areas of Greece and respecting strict product specifications. Producers in other member states or not respecting these specifications will be given a maximum 5-year transitional period to change the name or to stop production.

“Overall, imported Feta sales declined in the U.S. when the PDO rule was implemented because other European Feta were not allowed anymore,” says Dominique Delugeau, president of Cheese Importers Association of America and vice president of sales and marketing at Saputo Specialty Cheese.

“But since then, sheep’s milk Feta being imported from Greece has been increasing regularly.”
Mark Johnson, assistant director, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, says there is no standard of identification for Feta in the United States, only those set by a company for its own quality control. In the Code of Federal Regulations, Feta only is included in the information that pertains to all cheeses about allowed ingredients, i.e. what Feta can be made with.

Delugeau says Greek imported PDO Feta is a niche that will continue to grow but as a small percentage of the total Feta market in the United States due to its higher price and lower availability.
Imported Feta packaging trends include more size options, such as smaller retail units. Delugeau says most of the Feta being imported from Greece previously only was sold in large bulk sizes.

In flavored varieties, Delugeau says imported Feta in olive oil or with herbs has been popular, along with barrel-aged Feta, a Feta aged in wood barrels for 3-4 months that offers a more pronounced, oaky flavor.

“Barrel-aged Feta has always been around, but it’s something the domestic market in Greece would enjoy, and now we see this more in the United States,” he says. “Once you create a consumer demand and an awareness of the product, you slowly but surely raise the bar.”

Delugeau says the Cheese Importers Association of America continues to educate consumers on ways to use imported Feta. Saputo Specialty Cheese shares recipes of its imported line, Greek Isle Feta, on social media.

Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe, Wisconsin, produced 23 million pounds of cow’s milk Feta last year for its Odyssey brand Feta, showing consecutive growth every year since 1988 when the product was launched.

“Feta brings a lot of flavor in a small amount,” says Luke Buholzer, vice president of sales, Klondike Cheese. “You don’t need a lot. That’s good from a health standpoint and because it allows for the cheese to be inexpensive.”

Klondike Cheese is focusing on meeting consumers’ needs with Feta. Instead of only offering foodservice sizes of Feta packed in brine, the company now offers it in 8- and 16-ounce size offerings at retail.

“That seems to have more of a consumer acceptance,” Buholzer says.

Buholzer predicts the category will continue to grow and shed misconceptions such as being categorized amongst foods pregnant women shouldn’t eat.

“In the past, we saw people didn’t really know what Feta was,” he says. “It seemed to have an unclean mystique about it. It has shed most of that.”

Buholzer says introducing consumers to additional uses of Feta continues to be a challenge. Klondike Cheese shares recipes of Feta dishes on its website.

“While Feta is doing a decent job expanding outside of salads, we need to show consumers what else you can do with it,” he says.

Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Willows, California, introduced its goat’s milk Bella Capra Feta in 2009. Meghan Rodgers, sales and marketing, Sierra Nevada, says the company has seen significant growth in the cheese within the last year.

“There’s aren’t a lot of domestically made goat Fetas out there,” Rodgers says. “Using goat’s or sheep’s milk is the traditional way of making Feta. As people taste it, they appreciate it more.”

Sierra Nevada sources its goat’s milk from a dairy two miles away, and the milk is used the same day. The company also offers a sheep-goat Feta with 70 percent sheep’s milk and 30 percent goat’s milk.

“Also with goat’s milk, there is a lot more flavor that is not present in cow’s milk because it has the natural enzyme that breaks down the fat,” says Ben Gregersen, owner, Sierra Nevada.

The company is discussing the idea of offering flavored Feta varieties, but Gregersen says not everyone may be ready for that flavor within the brine.

The biggest trend Rodgers sees in the category is Feta crumbles.

“We have noticed a demand for our Feta in foodservice,” she says. “Chefs enjoy using it because of the crumble.”


Cheese production up 1.8 percent from year earlier

May 6, 2016

WASHINGTON — Total U.S. cheese production, excluding cottage cheese, was 1.03 billion pounds in March, up 1.8 percent from 1.01 billion pounds in March 2015, according to data released Thursday by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Dairy Production chart on page 14.)

March cheese production also was up 7.8 percent above February 2016’s 955.1 million pounds. Adjusting for the length of the months, March 2016 production was up 0.8 percent over February 2016 on an average daily basis.

Total Italian-type cheese production was 459.1 million pounds in March, up 4.3 percent from March 2015. Production of Mozzarella, the largest component of Italian-type cheese production, totaled 359.3 million pounds, up 4.8 percent from a year earlier.

American-type cheese production totaled 399.4 million pounds in March, up 0.9 percent from a year earlier. Production of Cheddar, the largest component of American-type cheese production, was 284.5 million pounds, down 0.9 percent from March 2015.

Wisconsin led the nation’s cheese production with 271.9 million pounds in March 2016, up 4.7 percent from its production a year earlier. California followed with 214.4 million pounds, up 1.2 percent from a year earlier.

The next four cheese-producing states in March were Idaho with 83.0 million pounds, up 0.9 percent from a year earlier; New York with 69.8 million pounds, down 4.2 percent; New Mexico with 69.3 million pounds, up 2.3 percent; and Minnesota with 55.9 million pounds, down 4.0 percent.

NASS says total U.S. butter production in March was 182.0 million pounds, up 8.6 percent from March 2015’s 167.5 million pounds. March butter production was 4.4 percent higher than February 2016’s 174.4 million pounds, but on an average daily basis March 2016 butter production was down 2.4 percent from February 2016 production.

California led the nation’s butter production with 55.4 million pounds of butter in March 2016, down 2.7 percent from its production a year earlier.

U.S. production of nonfat dry milk (NDM) suitable for human consumption totaled 171.6 million pounds in March, NASS says, down 5.1 percent from a year earlier.


Boards agree FCC members could join NDA in future

May 6, 2016

SEATTLE — The respective boards of Northwest Dairy Association (NDA) and Farmers Cooperative Creamery (FCC) recently approved and signed an agreement that could provide an opportunity for FCC members to join NDA.

According to a joint statement from FCC and NDA, the cooperatives have informally been working together to realize efficiencies benefiting both co-ops, such as supporting each other in processing and marketing milk to customers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“FCC members will consider this strategic option at upcoming producer meetings,” the statement says. “This agreement between FCC and NDA is not a merger and simply creates a potential opportunity for FCC members to become NDA members.”

FCC has approximately 60 members and sells a majority of its milk to bottling plants in the Portland, Oregon, market. NDA’s membership represents about 460 dairy farms across the Pacific Northwest region.


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
May 25, 2016

Barrels: $1.3925 (NC)
Blocks: $1.3400 (NC)

Click here for more market activity
Cheese Production
U.S. Total March
1,029.406 mil. lbs.

Milk Production
U.S. Total April
18.000 bil. lbs.

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