While at WSU's relatively small cheese making operation, the manager told us about the large Darigold cheesemaking operation in Sunnyside, WA. According to the president of Darigold it is "one of the largest and most efficient state-of-the-art cheese plants in the world..." The tour is supposed to be great.
Nancy went to work on Monday morning, trying to figure out how we can get our hands on some of this "local" cheese. The folks in Sunnyside were very helpful, but in what is becoming a recurring experience, we found that a food system built around maximizing efficiency and profit, does not lend itself to identifying where the food originates. It turns out that Sunnyside churns out over 400,000 lbs of cheese every day, but most of it, at least right now, is shipped to far off places like Wisconsin. So if you want local Pacific Northwest cheese, you might need to do one of those cheese tours of Wisconsin. Another option they told us is to find a restaurant that buys their 40lb blocks from Food Services of America, and have them cut us off a chunk. Or we could find some friends who want to go in on buying a 40lb block and share it. Or maybe I can take that $600 tax stimulus, buy 7 blocks of cheese, and become the local cheesemonger. I sort of just wanted an excuse to write cheesemonger. Cheesemonger. Cheesemonger. Cheesemonger. It's a fun word, you have to admit.
If you're wondering about why we would ship Pacific Northwest cheese to Wisconsin, a quick look at wholesale prices tells the tale. In the western market for 40 lb blocks 'o cheese, the price is currently $2.16/lb, whereas the Wisconsin market price is $2.41/lb. I'm no expert on transportation costs but I guess in the end, the math works. With all the news about increasing food prices you may be interested to know that two years ago the cost was $1.45/lb in the western market. Consider that your commodities market minute.
In other random cheese news, Tillamook ships their cheese to Oakland to be shredded, and then has it shipped back north to be distributed.