With Wisconsin facing a shortage of licensed buttermakers (yes, you really do need a license to make/sell butter in this state), several industry groups are finally working to update the rules related to obtaining a buttermaker’s license in America's Dairyland.
The most exciting news is that, as part of this process, the Center for Dairy Research is offering a new Buttermakers Short Course on Sept 14-16 in Madison. This year, the course is limited to 25 Wisconsin residents and will cover the production of quality butter with an emphasis on flavor, composition and shelf life. Cost is $350. To register, call 608-263-1672, and make it snappy, because this class will sell out soon.
The new Buttermakers Short Course reflects an alternate rule, currently being drafted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, with input from Wisconsin’s dairy industry, including artisan and farmstead buttermakers.
In January, the state Agriculture Board unanimously approved a scope statement to begin the process of altering the rules to earn a license. Under current law, anyone applying for a buttermaker’s license must pass an exam and match at least one other qualification, including: 1) working under a licensed buttermaker for at least 24 months, 2) working under a licensed buttermaker for 18 months and have completed a training course approved by the agriculture department, or 3) possess a four-year degree in food science, and have worked under a licensed buttermaker at least 12 months.
With only 43 licensed buttermakers left in the state, I would argue that if the rule is not updated, Wisconsin’s butter industry is at risk of not being able to take advantage of new market opportunities, including meeting a growing demand for farmstead and artisan butters.
In good news, it is expected that the new rule will offer another option in obtaining a buttermaker’s license that will include attending the Center for Dairy Research’s Buttermakers Short Course, apprenticing for a certain number of (much more limited) hours under a licensed buttermaker, and then passing a state exam.
The new licensing rules are expected to be finalized by September. Stay tuned for additional updates.