FOOD & AGRICULTURE: Say “cheese”: Westby Cooperative Creamery

By any measure, a cooperative that has survived since 1903 deserves a thundering round of applause. Located two hours west of Madison (that’s certainly more than several hundred cows end-to-end), the co-op has more than 160 local members. Many of the farms supplying milk have been in the same families for four to five generations.

The co-op’s bovines produce 52 million pounds of hormone-free milk and 70 million pounds that are certified organic by the Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA).

Of course, just as cows need round-the-clock care, so does managing a business of this size. Peter Kondrup has been “head cheese” at the co-op for more than a decade. During that time, annual revenues increased from $15 million to $55 million. Kondrup emphasized that since it was launched, Westby Co-op products have always started as fresh, fluid milk which is then turned into cultured dairy food products using the co-op’s special recipes. Among its award-winning products are hard and soft cheeses, sour cream, yogurt and dips. Most are even gluten-free. Westby is the only creamery in the state making cottage cheese.

According to Kondrup, the creamery has the flexibility and creativity to produce dairy food products necessary to service a diverse and changing food industry marketplace. Lawrence Dodge, quality compliance manager, makes sure that the co-op’s products conform to the exacting requirements of SAI Global which shows that co-op adheres to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). This ensures safe food delivery to consumers, Dodge emphasized.

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