Cheese plant expands production

Carol Ryan Dumas/Capital Press Davisco CEO Jon Davis, left, and Oakley, Idaho, milk producer Steve Wybenga talk at the United Dairymen of Idaho convention reception Nov. 10 in Boise.

Operation will produce mozzarella for West Coast, export


Capital Press

Jerome Cheese Co., an American-style cheese manufacturer, is adding mozzarella to its production lines.

The addition won't initially increase the overall production of 520,000 pounds a day, but if all goes as planned, production could increase substantially, said Jon Davis, CEO of parent company Davisco Foods.

"We'll ramp that up subject to the amount of orders we get," he said. "We're expanding the flexibility of the plant initially, but if milk (production) continues to grow in Idaho, we'll double the plant."

Demand for mozzarella is good, he said. Adding mozzarella production will keep production up when demand for cheddar lags.

"It'll help maximize the value of our milk processing," he said.

The new production line will focus on pasta filata mozzarella.

"It's a traditional way of making cheese that allows it to stretch on a pizza," he said. "It impacts flavor and 'mouth feel.'"

The production will allow the company to supply multi-regional customers, such as Papa Murphy's. Davisco, based in La Sueur, Minn., produces mozzarella at its Lake Norden, S.D., plant, supplying the pizza chain and others in the Midwest.

The goal is to supply West Coast customers with mozzarella from Idaho, Troy Ammann, Davisco director of cheese operations, said in a press release.

"Not only will we better serve our customers in the western U.S., but the Idaho location will provide better access to our international customers that we ship to from western ports," he said.

"I think it's great because we can get more money for our milk," said Jerome Cheese producer Steve Wybenga, of Oakley. "It gives you diversity, another option."

As for increasing milk production, Idaho producers definitely have the potential to do that, he said. He and other producers already have permits for additional cows but put those plans on hold during the rough economic times.

Production of mozzarella is set to begin in June 2011, and the new endeavor will add up to 20 jobs on the mozzarella production line. The company currently employs 250 people.

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