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Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day Coming Up

Cheese lovers (a.k.a. turophiles) around the world will have the chance to nibble on traditional raw milk cheeses at more than 600 events on April 22, 2017, designated Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day.

Created by the Oldways Cheese Coalition in 2015, and in association with the prestigious Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, this worldwide holiday offers cheese enthusiasts a chance to participate in events celebrating the distinctiveness and cultural heritage of cheeses made with raw milk.

This year’s celebration will highlight four worldwide flagship events at:

  • London: Neal’s Yard Dairy
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil: Mercearia Mestre Queijeiro
  • Mexico City: Lactography
  • Paris: La Vache dans les Vignes

Even if you can’t make one of the flagship events, there are hundreds more, taking place everywhere from Whole Foods to your local cheese shop. (Partial list)

“Raw milk cheeses are unique in flavor, history, and carry on traditional cheesemaking practices,” said Carlos Yescas, Program Director, Oldways Cheese Coalition. “The producers who make them are passionate about craftsmanship and animal husbandry. Their cheeses represent years, even decades, of knowledge and thoughtful innovation to better their products.”

Since cheese was first discovered many millennia ago it has been made with pure raw milk. In fact, it was only in the last century that cheese began to be made with pasteurized milk.

More than half of cheese lovers prefer raw milk cheeses and purchase them regularly. It’s no wonder since the natural microflora in raw milk produces cheeses — such as Le Gruyère AOP, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort and many American originals — that are characteristic of local environments, expressive of terroir, and evocative of complex flavors.

Another benefit? Scientific studies reveal that, when consumed in moderation, cheese is a tremendous way to add healthy fats, minerals, vitamins and probiotics to your diet.

Retailers, restaurants, producers and cheese enthusiasts are invited to participate with their own events. For more information about how to be involved with Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day or to join the Oldways Cheese Coalition, visit www.oldwayscheese.org.

Everyone is encouraged to join in the cheese conversation and celebration on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #RawMilkCheese.

ACS Competition Now Open for Entries

The 2017 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition is now open for entries!

ACS’s annual judging of American cheeses and cultured dairy products will take place July 24-25, 2017 in the organization’s hometown of Denver, Colorado. The judging will be held immediately prior to Cheese with Altitude, the 34th Annual ACS Conference in Denver.

Winners in each category, including “Best of Show” honorees, will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony in Denver on Friday, July 28. Entry deadline is May 12, with late entries accepted until May 19 for a higher fee.

Sugarmade Completes Sriracha Seasoning Stix Manufacturing Facility

Sugarmade, Inc. has completed a California manufacturing facility that will produce Sriracha Seasoning Stix. The facility and an additional contract manufacturing site located on the East Coast will provide the company with an initial manufacturing capability of tens of thousands of bottles of Sriracha Seasoning Stix each week and a future capacity of tens of millions of Stix per month.

Already issued three U.S. patents, Seasoning Stix are a true innovation in the seasoning of meat, fish and poultry. Production of this new class of seasoning required the invention of several new culinary production techniques, which are now fully operational. Sriracha Seasoning Stixs are encapsulated Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce and other seasonings in the form of a “stick” that’s inserted into meat, fish and poultry prior to cooking. Sriracha Seasoning Stixs are a hard solid at room temperature, but as heat is applied, the sticks begin to liquefy, allowing the meat fibers to act like a sponge, absorbing all the spicy deliciousness of Huy Fong Foods, Inc. Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce.

Insurance Broker Points out Risks of Grocery Store Foodservice

Grocery store takeout and in-store dining is the fastest growing segment in the foodservice industry. Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance broker, offers grocery stores with dining services insights on business risks.

Product recall expert at Lockton, Ian Harrison, explains what grocerants should look for to protect their business and their customers in Grocerants Are on the Rise, and So Are the Risks. The report points out that foodborne illnesses outbreaks linked to U.S. grocers more than doubled from 2014 to 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Millennial habits have led to the popularity of in-store meal preparation, consumer confidence that food in grocery stores is safe is decreasing. Food safety and sanitization methods are vital to this industry, and so are protocols for handling food poisoning claims. Serious damage can be done to an entire chain of stores from a food contamination claim or Food and Drug Administration violations.

Although the risks are broadening with this trend, so is insurance. Traditionally, economic loss protection insurance has been two separate policies; food manufacturing and food service. The rise of hybrid processing and service creates a new vertical integrated risk.

The new insurance policy combines exposures like foodborne illness, supplier contamination, and public health shutdown of retail locations in addition to processing exposures of accidental contamination.

Registration Open for PLMA Education Program

Registration is now open for the PLMA 2017 Executive Education Program, scheduled to be held June 12-15 at St. Josephs University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

More than 1,600 private label retailers and manufacturers have graduated the program since its inception. You can become one of the successful students, too. For further information, contact Sylvia Stein, PLMA Executive Education Manager, at 212.972.3131 or email education@plma.com.

Little Red Dot Kitchen Expands Production Capacity

Little Red Dot Kitchen’s move to a larger headquarters and production facility in the San Francisco Bay area is now complete following a successful USDA inspection of its production and co-packing facility.

The USDA inspection was completed earlier this month, said Ching Lee, CEO. The new facility also houses an FDA inspected commercial kitchen that began operation earlier this year. The production facility includes fully automated, high-capacity equipment that can accommodate production of a range of meat snacks and sticks, steak bites, jerky and sausages from mixing and grinding through packaging. Equipment includes a commercial oven that can cook from 500 to 700 pounds per cycle, capability for both slicing and emulsion extrusion, and an automatic bagging system.

Little Red Dot Kitchen began transitioning operations from San Jose, California, into the new facility in Hayward, California, in January to accommodate rising demand for its Bak Kwa meat snacks and to position the company for future growth. Bak Kwa is like a sweet and savory jerky infused with Asian spices and inspired by a traditional grilled Singapore and Malaysian street food.

Little Red Dot Kitchen’s Bak Kwa meat snacks come from U.S. family farms dedicated to raising animals humanely and without antibiotics or hormones. They are minimally processed with most ingredients having Non-GMO verification and also are free from artificial ingredients, wheat, dairy and eggs. The meat snacks are available in resealable 1- to 3-ounce packages with a suggested retail price of $6.99 to $7.99. Cases include 12 of the 2.5- to 3-ounce bags and 18 of the 1-ounce bags. The Bak Kwa is available in five flavors, including the 2016 sofi Award-winning Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon, which has no nitrates or nitrites; Spicy Chipotle Beef Bak Kwa; Pork Bak Kwa; free-range Turkey Bak Kwa and Lemongrass Beef Bak Kwa.

Danny Wegman Announces CEO Appointment

Danny Wegman announced that his daughter, Colleen Wegman, has been named President and CEO of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and he will assume the title of Chairman. “I will continue in my role, but now as chairman of the company,” said Danny Wegman. “The time has come to create a structure for the future that will allow us to remain strong, vibrant and family-owned. I have no doubt that our company will be in good hands.”

Colleen Wegman joined Wegmans in 1991 and was named President in 2005 by the late Robert B. Wegman, her grandfather.

Saving Wisconsin Family Dairy Farms, One Premium Cheese at a Time

By Lorrie Baumann

Terry and Paula Homan, husband and wife and Co-Founders of Red Barn Family Farms, think they’ve found a cheesy solution for foundering Wisconsin family dairy farms. Their solution goes like this: find farms where the cows are treated like members of the family, put both cows and kids to work, and then ask members of the public to pay a fair price for premium quality dairy products. It’s a scheme that has worked around the world for generation upon generation, but it’s been faltering recently in the U.S. and in Wisconsin in particular.

Terry Homan grew up on a Wisconsin family farm and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1996. From the vantage point of his veterinary practice at farms across the state, he began noticing that Wisconsin’s small family farms were disappearing.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 9,000 fewer Wisconsin farms with less than a thousand acres in 2012 than there had been just five years earlier in 2007. Many of these farmers simply retired as they aged, but many others left the business because their sweat wasn’t diluting enough of the red ink. The total acreage of Wisconsin farm land dropped by about half a million acres between 2007 and 2012. More recently, the number of Wisconsin farms dropped by 100 and 100,000 acres of farm land were lost during 2015, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.

The volatility of dairy prices has a lot to do with that. In 2007, Wisconsin dairy farmers were getting an average of $19.30 per hundredweight of milk, but in the five years previous to that, the average milk price had topped out at $16.90 in 2004, and in the next five years, they’d drop to $13.10 in 2009 before crawling their way up to $20.30 in 2011 and then sliding back down to $19.40 in 2012, according to USDA statistics for Wisconsin. A hundredweight of milk is about 11.6 gallons, so at $20 per hundredweight, the farmers were getting $1.72 a gallon for their milk, but at $13.10, they were only getting $1.13.

Getting family dairy farmers off the milk price roller coaster that was costing them their farms was going to mean figuring out a way to put more money in their pockets, and that depended on finding retailers and consumers willing to pay a premium price for milk from family farms. The Homans founded Red Barn Family Farms, which is, at its heart, a brand that stands for the notion that consumers looking for food that aligned with their own values might be willing to take the rubber bands off their wallets to get milk with exceptionally good taste, produced by cows living long, healthy bovine lives on real Wisconsin family farms.

To get that milk, they went looking for some family farmers who shared the values underpinning the oath that Terry had taken when he became a veterinarian, when he swore to use his knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources and the promotion of public health. They didn’t have far to go in Wisconsin, where nearly 12 percent of the state’s workforce makes a living in agriculture. “These farms are small. The owning family does the majority of the work handling the milking of the cows,” said Terry. “Personal knowledge of each animal as an individual, and therefore the care of each animal as an individual, is important…. When the same person is caring for that animal, they know the individual traits of each animal, as opposed to every animal being treated as the same widget.”

He offered to pay the farmers a premium for their milk if they followed a few strict rules promoting good animal husbandry, had their farms certified by the American Humane Association and passed laboratory tests for milk quality. “Our goal is never to be negative – to be very positive. Our Red Barn Rules incentivize excellent animal husbandry rather than incentivizing more production,” Terry said. “On one of our farms, during the winter, the cows go outside for exercise during the day, provided it’s not a blizzard. [The farmer] will go out several times a day and open the barn door for the cows that are ready to come in. That’s a day-to-day example of individual care. You know the animal individually, with its individual traits; you will pick up more quickly and easily when something is wrong.”

Once the Homans had a couple of small family farmers signed up and delivering their milk in early 2008, Terry and Paula started going out to supermarkets to offer Dixie-cup samples. It turned out that they were right – consumers were indeed willing to pay more for delicious milk.

This is where cheese starts to wedge its way into the story, because while some consumers were willing to pay a premium for better milk, that was still a niche market, and by midsummer of 2008, the cows in the program were flooding it with an extremely perishable product. For the past several thousand years, cheese has been a known solution to that dilemma.
Wisconsin leads the nation in cheese production, accounting for 26 percent of all U.S. production, so it was no minor coincidence that the Hintz family was making some good cheeses at their Springside Cheese creamery just up the road in Oconto Falls. Springside uses small batch production to make custom orders for Cheddars, Colby, Colby Jack and Monterey Jack cheeses and has several American Cheese Society and U.S. Championship Cheese Contest awards to its credit, including three awards for bandaged Cheddars, the most recent a second-place award in the class from the 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

The Hintz family agreed to make Cheddar cheeses from the Red Barn milk for the Homans to sell under their new company’s brand name, and Red Barn Family Farms was in the cheese business. “We started with Cheddars. The bandaged Heritage Weis was the starting point,” Terry said. “We chose that because we think it’s the perfect complement to our family farms, the heritage of the bandaged wheel and the handmade care with which they’re made.”

Since then, the Red Barn Family Farms’ line of Heritage Weis Cheddars, which are bandaged wrapped 13-pound midget wheels, and its Heritage White Cheddars, which are made from the same recipe in 40-pound blocks, have won 16 awards in the past six years at the U.S. Cheese Championship and the World Cheese Championships. “In 2012 at the World Cheese Championship, our bandaged Cheddars actually swept the category for bandaged Cheddars,” Terry said.

EdunCheeseBlockWith that success, the Homans asked John Jaeggi at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research to suggest another cheese for the Red Barn milk. “He suggested New Zealand Cheddar as a model for the Red Barn,” Terry said. “That style lets the natural grass flavors come through the Cheddar. We agreed that was a perfect fit.” New Zealand’s prized Cheddar cheeses are typically made from unpasteurized milk from grass-fed cows, with flavors produced by a particular cocktail of local lactobacilli cultures, and coagulated with animal rennet. Once the Center for Dairy Research had developed a recipe for the cheese that was to be called Edun White Cheddar, the Homans asked Jon Metzig to make it for them at Willow Creek Creamery.

Metzig is a fourth-generation cheesemaker who grew up working at his family’s cheese plant and eventually became the youngest Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker in the state’s history. Jointly sponsored by the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, the University of Wisconsin’s Extension Service and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program requires its applicants to have held a Wisconsin cheesemaker license for a minimum of 10 years before they can qualify to embark on a three-year training program and apprenticeship that ends in a rigorous written examination, and finally, certification as a Master Cheesemaker for a particular variety of cheese. Applicants may certify in only two types of cheese each time they go through the program. Jon Metzig is certified as a Master Cheesemaker for Cheddar and Colby cheeses. He makes Edun in 40-pound blocks for Red Barns on demand as the orders for the cheese come in. “We schedule that as needed on a per month basis. Sometimes in the busy season, there might be several days,” Terry said. “It depends on our orders and his schedule. We accommodate each other’s needs.”

CupolaApetite_FLAT for webThen the Homans went back to the Center for Dairy Research with a request for a recipe for a unique American cheese. The result was Cupola, which has the sweet caramel flavor of a Gouda at the front, followed by the long tangy finish of a Parmesan. It’s often thought to resemble a Piave, a classic Italian cow milk cheese with a Protected Designation of Origin near the Piave River in the Dolomites region. “Cupola is just a really versatile cheese. It’s great with a glass of wine, but you can grate it,” said Paula. “It melts beautifully.”

For this cheese, the Homans asked Katie Fuhrmann, the Head Cheesemaker at her family’s LaClare Farms, to lend her skills. A goat dairy, La Clare Farms is currently best known for its Standard Market Cave Aged Chandoka, a mixed milk cheese in the style of a New Zealand Cheddar, made by Fuhrmann at LaClare Farms and aged in the caves at the Standard Market in Illinois. Standard Market Cave Aged Chandoka won the first place award for American Originals at the 2015 American Cheese Society Judging and Competition and then went on to tie for second place in the Best of Show category.

Le Rouge2_103406 for webMost recently, Red Barn brought out a Monterey Jack in 2016 that’s made by the Hintz family at Springside, and then went back to Metzig to make Le Rouge, which was introduced in limited release in 2016. It’s a washed-rind alpine-style cheese with a reddish-orange edible rind made from an original recipe and aged eight to nine months before sale. “When you taste it, it’s reminiscent of a French Comte,” Terry said. “It hearkens back to the traditions of our Red Barn Family Farms.”

Five Reasons to Put Anuga on Your Calendars

Anuga, the world’s leading food fair for the retail trade and the foodservice and catering markets, will take place October 7-11, 2017, at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. Here are five reasons to attend.

  1. The 2015 expo attracted nearly 160,000 trade visitors from 192 countries. Event organizers anticipate breaking this record in 2017, as Cologne continues to attract buyers and sellers from all countries around the world. That’s because Anuga has become the benchmark for all food trade fairs worldwide in terms of both quality and quantity.
  2. This biennial event is a central business and communications platform for all players involved in the development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of food and beverage.
  3. Anuga is where new products make their debut to complement today’s and tomorrow’s trends.
  4. Anuga prides itself on being 10 trade shows under one roof. This design is a well-arranged layout divided up into themed areas, which makes it easy to focus and get work done. The halls are: 1) Bread & Bakery, 2) Chilled & Fresh Food, 3) Culinary Concepts, 4) Dairy, 5) Drinks, 6) Fine Food, 7) Frozen Food, 8) Meat, 9) Hot Beverages and 10) Organic.
  5. Anuga creates trend platforms before the exhibition to make it easy to find exhibitors, participate in educational programs and attend special events that are important to your business. For the 2015 expo, these platforms included: Fair Trade, Gourmet, Halal, Health/Functional Foods, Ingredients, Kosher, Organic, Private Label, Vegan and Vegetarian.

Mark your calendar for the 34th Anuga taking place October 7-11, 2017. For more information, visit www.anuga.com.

Sargento Foods Introduces Sweet Balanced Breaks Snacks

Sargento Foods is giving cheese lovers a balanced way to satisfy their sweet tooth with the release of Sweet Balanced Breaks® Snacks. This new product combines the savory flavors of creamy, natural cheese with sweet ingredients like dried fruits and dark chocolate.

SARGENTO cropSweet Balanced Breaks Snacks add to the wide range of Sargento® cheese snacks. The four Sweet Balanced Breaks Snack varieties feature 5-7 grams of protein and fewer than 200 calories per serving.

“We have been thrilled with the response to Balanced Breaks Snacks, and we wanted to give our loyal fans even more variety and convenience in their snacks,” said Ryan Hemsing, Director of Marketing for the Sargento Foods Consumer Products Division. “The Sweet Balanced Breaks line lets people embrace their sweet side with the perfect balance of indulgence and real goodness.”

The tempting new combinations are:

  • Natural Cheddar Cheese, Raisins, Sea-Salted Roasted Almonds and Greek Yogurt-Flavored Drops
  • Monterey Jack Natural Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Banana Chips and Dark Chocolate Chunks
  • Natural Cheddar Cheese, Raspberry Flavored Dried Cranberries, Graham Crackers and Milk Chocolate Chunks
  • Monterey Jack Natural Cheese, Dried Cranberries and Dark Chocolate-Coated Peanuts

Sargento Sweet Balanced Breaks Snacks are available in packages of three 1.5-ounce snacks for a suggested retail price of $3.69. They can be found at retailers nationwide in the dairy aisle. For more information and product availability, visit www.sargento.com.

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