Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Green Cheese

While I don't usually advocate eating green cheese -- in fact, that's usually the part most of us scrape off -- I whole-heartily congratulate Bob Wills of Cedar Grove Cheese on becoming Wisconsin's first "green cheesemaker."

That's because Cedar Grove Cheese near Plain, Wis., is the first food processor in the entire Midwest to meet a stunningly complex set of standards for sustainable practices established by Food Alliance, a national nonprofit that provides third-party certification throughout North America.

The Food Alliance certification assures buyers of the company's safe and fair working conditions, conservation of energy and water, reduction and recycling of waste, and other sustainable practices. Along with Cedar Grove Cheese, 13 dairy farms were also certified for standards that include labor conditions, humane animal treatment, and conservation of soil and water, enabling them to supply Cedar Grove Cheese with milk for Food Alliance certified cheeses.

Cedar Grove processes about 130,000 pounds of milk a day, producing more than 4 million pounds of traditional and specialty cheeses per year.

Wills and company have long been known for their commitment to sustainable agriculture. In 1993, with support from its dairy suppliers, Cedar Grove was the first cheese maker in the U.S. to market cheese made with milk from cows that were not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). And then in 2001, Cedar Grove further distinguished itself by pledging to make its cheeses without the use of genetically modified organisms. And then there's the plant's wastewater treatment facility called the Living Machine. Located in a greenhouse, the earth-friendly wastewater processor has the ability to clean all wash water from the manufacturing facility in an environmentally responsible way.

Wills said he sought out the program because as more companies make marketing claims about their "natural" products, he wants to give his customers the maximum assurance of a third-party audit.

Congratulations to Cedar Grove Cheese for further distinguishing itself as one of Wisconsin's most innovative cheese plants.

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