Packed udder to udder in the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center’s milking parlor stood some of MSU’s finest — 14 Holstein cows — in place and ready to be milked.
But this isn’t just any milk the cows are producing.
Every day, about 155 cows are milked at the dairy farm, which produces nationally award-winning milk. The center received platinum recognition from the National Dairy Quality Award Program for its milk from 2012 — its third year receiving the award.
Starting this week, the award-winning milk will be used to produce cheese sold at Dairy Store locations on campus.
Typically, this milk only was shipped to the Michigan Milk Producers Association, or MMPA, cooperative in Livonia Mich., where it was bottled, sent to other co-ops and sold at Kroger stores across the state, said Bob Kreft, herd manager at the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center.
It was not shipped to and directly used in Dairy Store products — something commonly assumed by students, Kreft said.
“We’re pretty excited.” Kreft said. “I’ve had their cheese before and I thought it was good. But I’m going to go back and try it again when it’s our own milk.”
MSU Dairy Complex Manager John Engstrom said he expects all of the Dairy Store’s cheese to be made of MSU milk by Christmas this year.
Because of the time it takes for cheese to age varies, it will take about a year for certain cheeses, such as cheddars and colby jack, to hit the shelves. Degano and pepper jack cheese made with MSU milk likely will be in stores in two to three months, Engstrom said.
As of yesterday, the cheese curds sold at the MSU Dairy store were made of MSU milk, Engstrom said.
Currently, the dairy complex has about 30,000 pounds of cheese stored with milk from outside suppliers, he said.
“This is a win-win for everybody,” he said.
“You can’t get a higher-quality milk than what’s being produced on campus, and that’s what you want. You want the best source of milk to make the cheese from.”
Milk quality is measured by low bacteria and somatic cell counts, which were extremely low in MSU’s milk last year, Kreft said.
Although he said it does not affect the taste of the milk, higher quality milk lasts longer on store shelves and impacts the amount of cheese one can produce from the milk.
Engstrom said the dairy complex used to get milk from an MMPA co-op in Ovid, Mich., which also was high quality. But once the complex got its own hauling license and was able to go directly to farms to get the milk, they decided to keep it close to home and get milk straight from the MSU farm.
Animal science senior Emily Henderson, a pusher at the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center, said she is glad to see the milk made at MSU used in products and bought by the community.
Henderson directs the cows into the parlor and assists with the milking process.
“We produce all this stuff,” Henderson said. “We give it to the students and I can go in and say, ‘Yes, I actually milked this cow earlier this morning and here is that milk.’”