One “Whey” or Another – Dairy Farm Sustainability
When my sister and I took over our family dairy farm a few years ago, we decided a new adventure was in store for the Marcoot Jersey Farm in Greenville, Illinois – and by “adventure,” I mean cheese.
Based on the current demand for milk and milk prices, we had two options to remain profitable and stay in business: get roughly 400 more cows or find another way to increase revenue. For our farm and family, thinking outside the box and creating a value-added income stream felt like the right choice. And so, the creamery where we make artisan and farmstead cheese was born.
Our 110 Jersey cows supply all of the milk to make our cheese. The beautiful Jersey cow is known for producing rich, high-quality milk with lots of butterfat, making it perfect for cheese.
All of our cheeses are made right here on the farm and aged in our underground aging cave. The cheese cave is designed after the man-made cheese caves in Switzerland to provide natural aging for our cheese while providing energy efficiency and sustainability for the creamery.
Sustainability is a key component for our family and farm. It guides the methods in which we take care of our herd, the way we produce our cheese and the way we designed our facility. We combine centuries old methods like the cheese cave with new technologies that allow us to use every part of the milk our cows produce.
The result: Delicious cheese with zero waste.
“Whey” To Recycle
Whey is the liquid left over from the cheese making process. Cheese is made up of the solid parts of milk, so, naturally, after you make cheese, you are left with the liquid parts. This liquid has protein in it, which is why you’re probably most familiar with whey as a dehydrated protein powder.
Creameries in the Wisconsin area can sell their whey to processors who dehydrate it and use it in various ways. In Southern Illinois, we don’t have access to that market, so we had to start coming up with other “wheys” to make this cheese by-product a value-added piece of our business.
Audie, our resident cheese maker, got to work on some ideas. For a while, we used the sweet cream whey as a feed additive for our cattle. They loved the sweet taste, and it packed a punch as an extra (and affordable) protein source for optimal nutrition.
Next, she came up with Extreme Ice. It’s our own version of Italian ice but with an extra boost of protein. It combines sweet cream whey with frozen fruit to provide 20 grams of protein in a 5-oz. serving. Delicious and nutritious!
Our next challenge will be finding a distributor to work with so we can bring this high-protein frozen treat to people beyond those who visit our creamery. After all, the more cheese we make, the more whey we have to utilize.
Carrying on the family heritage on our dairy farm is important to us, but doing things the same way just wasn’t a viable option. To keep the family business thriving, we had to come into it with an open mind and willingness to try new things. Even though our family business looks different today, our family’s core values remain the same: responsibly raised cows, sustainable dairy products and a deep love for Jersey cows.