WSU creamery increasing production capacity

A rendering of the creamery expansion at Washington State University.

Washington State University’s creamery is expanding.

“Pretty much every year for the last number of years, we’ve been running out of cheese before we get to Christmas,” said John Haugen, creamery manager. “That’s kind of been creeping earlier and earlier into December.”

Currently, the university can make 1,500 pounds of cheese per batch from 15,000 pounds of milk. With the changes, the capacity per batch would double to 3,000 pounds of cheese from 30,000 pounds of milk.

Demand for the cheese increases each year, Haugen said.

Popular cheeses such as Cougar Gold, cheddar and smoky cheddar are aged for a year. Others are aged for two to four months, depending on the cheese.

The creamery has adjusted its schedule and current equipment to increase production, Haugen said, but needs to add capacity to accommodate the larger increase.

Last fall, the creamery expanded the building, including a new raw milk receiving bay. The university is now bringing in raw milk silos and pipes to bring the milk into the plant, which would more than double the capacity to receive and hold milk, Haugen said.

The university has two 20,000-pound milk silos, which hold about 2,000 gallons, and will add two larger silos, he said. He expected to put out a request for proposals in April.

Haugen expects to have the silos operational by the end of the year.

That project will costs roughly $500,000.

Haugen also hopes to get approval for a bigger pasteurizer in the old receiving bay and increase floor space for a cheese vat and finishing table in the next two years. That would cost about $3 million, he said.

The creamery produces 240,000 cans of cheese per year. The proposed new equipment would provide an 80 percent increase, or about 192,000 cans, Haugen said.

The creamery is a self-funding unit of the School of Food Science within WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. The creamery puts aside roughly $2 per can of cheese sold in a building fund and to buy new equipment.

The creamery has a total of 70 employees, including 13 full-time, in the production, over-the-counter sales and direct marketing departments.

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