Wisconsin Whirllwind 2: Edelweiss, Maple Leaf, and robots

I thought I would be bored at the slicing and shredding factory. This part of the tour was definitely organized for Lunardi’s, not us. As a one store operation, we aren’t big enough for private labels or custom blends. Still, I love factories so I was happy to go. Plus we were promised cheese robots!

First though, we got to meet more master cheesemakers. Jeff Wideman from Maple Leaf Cheese Cooperative and Bruce Workman from Edelweiss Creamery*. We carry the Maple Leaf smoked Gouda because it’s a natural cheese (unlike most smoked goudas) and I have always admired the Edelwiess Emmenthal, made in copper vats and in 180 lb. wheels like the real Swiss version.

However, the most exciting thing about the visit was the revelation that Workman had helped start the Edelweis Grazier Co-op, made up of five farmers doing rotational grazing for pasture-based milk. I had actually already ordered a cheese of theirs without knowing the whole back-story because it tasted so good! In the absence of regulation for “grass-fed” dairy** the Edelweiss Grazier Co-op members agree, by being members of the co-op, to such restrictions as 1.5 acres of pasture for every cow and to not milk at all in the winter, non-grazeable months, giving cows a much needed rest that lets them produce high quantities of milk and live , for much longer than the average dairy cow.

While grass-based dairy has obvious health benefits for the cheese-eaters, the farmers, and the farmed, the lack of any unified definition leaves is ripe for abuse in the future. Hopefully we are a few years away from Jack in the Box offering “grass-fed” *** cheese on their “local”,“artisan” ciabatta bread, but that is only as far away as the creation of a sizable market that desires “grass-fed” cheese. I hope the grass-based dairies all over the US can create some kind of agreed upon definition before this concept gets abused.

But you don’t want to hear that negativity… Look ! Robots!!!! (Unfortunately, I realized too late that you can’t rotate videos on flickr. Put your computer on its side!)

((Hmmmmm, I can’t seem to get this video to embed at all here actually, try looking for it here on my flickr It’s only 9 seconds long))

*OMG, I love the slogan “You know it’s real when it’s cut from the wheel!”
**”grass-fed” meat is regulated, just not dairy. Meat animals and dairy animals have some different needs.
***there wouldn’t be any fine print since there is no regulation, but perhaps if there were it would say, “Grass fed cheese comes from cow that get at least 1% of their daily feed through grazing (or silage).”

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