26 November 2007

Award-winning cheese from Land O’Lakes

Every year, U.S. dairy farmers gather together at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting to review and discuss what’s happening in the dairy industry. The meeting draws more than 1500 dairy farmers and industry leaders from across the nation.

NMPF sponsors a cheese judging contest for the dairy cooperatives that are its members. On the first night of the meeting, they hold a welcome reception for everyone who’s in attendance. At that reception, we all get a chance to see which awards we won, see who else won awards, and best of all, we get to taste samples of the cheeses entered in the contest.

This year, Land O'Lakes won six awards. We won first place for mild cheddar and a low-fat provolone. We received second place for our sliced, processed Swiss-American and third place awards for aged cheddar, jalapeno-pepper processed cheese product, and sliced, processed reduced fat yellow American.

In the photo are Land O'Lakes CEO, the chairman of our board of directors, and the chief operating officer of our dairy processing operations. Our company executives really take a lot of pride in the quality of the cheese that’s made from our members’ milk.

Since we are a cooperative, our board is elected by the farmer-members; our chairman currently is a dairy farmer from eastern Wisconsin. The milk from his farm goes to our cheese plant in Kiel, Wis., and is used to make the award-winning cheddar cheeses at the contest.

(Cheese snobs generally sneer at the idea of ‘award-winning’ processed cheese. The video clip included with this post shows our chairman holding a piece of processed cheese and commenting that for him, a cheese sandwich made from processed cheese is comfort food, much to his daughter’s chagrin. This is the first time I’ve tried to post a video on Krik’s Picks.)

Sorry about the sound quality. If you didn't catch the punchline at the end, after his daughter said she didn't like the processed cheese, he told her, "Don't eat it then."

There were 122 entries from 11 cooperatives, and as you might guess, that adds up to a ton of cheese – literally. There was 2,284 pounds entered in the contest. Even though we eat a lot of cheese at the opening reception, there’s still a lot left after the meeting is over. Cheese that is uncut gets donated to Second Harvest. Apropos the next blog post, a lot of families who rely on food shelves in the Orlando area had some pretty good cheese for their Thanksgiving tables this year, courtesy of America’s dairy farmers and cooperatives.

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