Guest Columns

Industry Innovation

CDR renovations welcome new possibilities for Wisconsin dairy

Adam Brock

Adam Brock is vice president of food safety, quality and regulatory compliance for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. He is a guest columnist for this week’s issue of Cheese Market News®.

The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) building project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison continues to move forward with an opening date slated for early this fall. The excitement around these renovations has been building for a number of years as Wisconsin will be home to the most sophisticated dairy research center in the world.

To some, this work began a few years ago, but the reality is that this project is just the next step of work that has been ongoing for decades. The new addition and updates will push the state’s position in the specialty cheese market to the next level.

In the mid to late 1980s, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and other industry leaders came together to develop an infrastructure that could support and cultivate a strong community of superior cheesemaking — which resulted in co-founding the CDR at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program with UW Extension. With the support of processors and the Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute, the shared vision still lives on today with more than 76% of Wisconsin’s cheesemakers producing specialty cheeses. Wisconsin now claims 49.9% market share in the specialty cheese category.

Supported in part by dairy farmer checkoff dollars, CDR is world leading in product development, contract research, troubleshooting for product and process manufacturing and training services. Although the current facilities have met industry needs over the past 25 years, new technologies and equipment are needed to capture new markets. So what can we expect to see when the new addition is complete?

The building project includes a new, three-story addition to Babcock Hall for CDR and renovated spaces in the current building for dairy plant manufacturing and processing — all of which will greatly expand CDR’s capabilities and support of the industry.

Upon entering the new CDR, visitors will pass by a donor wall that will recognize all donors of all sizes that contributed to the building project. Next to the donor wall is the atrium area, which will serve as a pre-meeting area and a lunch/break location.

When exiting the atrium, visitors will enter into the expanded, state-of-the-art training center, which will hold approximately 80 attendees for short courses and industry trainings.

Down the hall from the training center is the culinary kitchen and applications laboratory, which also is the new home to six sensory booths for evaluating products with individual sinks and computers. Visitors will be able to utilize these new facilities to optimize product functionality and flavor to ensure an exemplary experience for their customers.

The second floor is entirely devoted to cheesemaking with its own separate make room area and cheese vats. What makes this area unique is further investment in specialty cheese.

Over the past four decades, we’ve learned that Wisconsin’s image of making half the nation’s specialty cheese has helped immensely with the sales of all our cheeses, so further investment in the research and development of specialty cheeses at CDR is coming soon.

This floor will house nine ripening rooms, each with its own air conditioner to control temperature, humidity and air flow, which will foster development of specialty cheese varieties such as Alpine-style, Blue mold, white mold, smear-ripened and more.

CDR also will have a range of different cheesemaking equipment and technologies available from state-of-the-art enclosed vats to smaller copper-lined vats that are perfect for product trials.

The third floor is devoted to non-cheese research, which includes dairy ingredients, beverages and other cultured products. Research on cultured dairy products will continue with the support of new equipment and improved fermentation capabilities. This area will include multiple spray dryers, aseptic beverage processing equipment and fermentation equipment for new and innovative products. This area also will include a conference room for formal meetings, and all the office areas will be updated.

The new addition also will be home to the Beverage Innovation Center, which will include a pilot plant focused on developing aseptic dairy beverages. With the center’s recent support of launching dairy-based sports drink GoodSport, imagine what else CDR’s team of 30 researchers with over 300 years of combined experience in food and dairy manufacturing will be able to do next.

Of course, none of this work would be possible without the generous donations of many companies, organizations and individuals within the dairy industry over the past few years.

Now, as we look back on how far we’ve come in the past few decades and what is still ahead of us, Wisconsin will continue to lead the industry, and the new developments at CDR are just one step forward in continuing that success. We’re proud of the work that has been done to uncover the science and art of cheesemaking and the role that CDR has played to develop the Wisconsin cheese market.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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