Joe was reading in a dairy magazine (that I can no longer track down….we get at least two a day) about a new cheese plant being built in South Dakota. Have you heard about that? It is scheduled to open July 2014.
170,000 square feet plant.
$100 million to build.
Needs 15,000 cows to provide milk for it.
400 new jobs in Brookings, South Dakota.
What kind of cheese? Well, fancy stuff. The company’s name is Bel Brands USA and they produce Laughing Cow cheese wedges, Mini Babybel snacking cheeses, as well as Boursin, Kaukauna, Merkts and a few others. Bel Brands USA is a subsidiary of Paris-based Fromageries Bel.
I thought I had better try this out. Our local Hy-Vee has a HUGE and WONDERFUL cheese selection, so of course they carry this.
This snacking cheese was very easy to open. Probably even easier than the string cheese I often send to school with my kids. It has a really good flavor to me, yet I think that each person has their own scale for judging cheese. It is a bit soft and creamy.
On the company’s website, they say that they “expect to produce 1.5 million delicious individually wrapped, portion-controlled Mini Babybels EACH DAY at the Brookings plant”. That’s a lot of snacks!
Anyhow, as Joe and I were discussing this, I began to dwell upon the explosion of dairies in South Dakota. When I graduated from the University of Minnesota 11 years ago, Purina Mills hired me as a dairy nutritionist. At that time, dairies were just starting to spring up all over in South Dakota along the I-29 corridor, and they thought placing more nutritionists in that direction to sell feed was a move for the future. Long story short, I really didn’t like my job with all the time on the road cold-calling. Six months later, Land O’Lakes merged with Purina and I got cut because I obviously wasn’t making much money for them yet.
Moreover, the dairies continue to be built. A lot of it is fueled by the state’s desire to help farmers get the permitting and paperwork in order. Also playing into this is the region’s ability to provide good feed for dairy cows. In any case, a lot of the dairies have been/are being built by people who have moved here from Holland. It is extremely difficult to begin a new dairy or expand a current one over there, so Dutch farmers been picking up their families and moving to the middle-of-nowhere-South Dakota. I’ve met some families in this situation and they are very hard-working, determined types.
Joe’s take on this whole issue is:
20 years ago, if you would have said that a French-based company would be building a $100 million cheese plant, in middle-of-nowhere-South Dakota, and that the farmers producing the milk for this cheese would be Dutch-as-a-first-language Hollanders, people would have looked at you as if you were from the moon. How things can change. Hope you get a chance to enjoy some Babybel cheese!