Farmers want dairy industry regulations to apply equally to all milk processors in New Zealand.
The team at Fonterra’s New Zealand Milk Products’ (NZMP) Lichfield plant, near Tokotoa, is able to turn milk into award-winning cheese time and time again.
Fonterra Lichfield site has two cheese plants: a dry salt and a brine salt plant. It also has a milk powder dryer.
This year’s gold medal win at the International Cheese Awards at Nantwich, UK has cemented NZMP and Fonterra Lichfield as making world-ranking cheese. Its Mainland Epicure, matured for 36 months, won the gold medal.
Last year, Fonterra Lichfield won a silver medal at Nantwich in the vintage cheddar cheese class for cheese aged at least 18 months. And at the NZ Cheese Awards this year Lichfield’s NZMP Strong Cheddar won the Tetra Pak Champion Cheddar Cheese Award.
Fonterra Lichfield’s head cheesemaker for dry salt cheeses, Iain O’Donnell, says the gold medal win at Nantwich is a big deal. The team also won a silver medal at Nantwich this year.
Cheesemakers from about 50 countries vie for top honours. This year about 5600 entries included traditional farmhouse to specialty Scandinavian cheeses.
“To be able to make quality cheese on a large scale of up to 200 tonnes per day and win gold is a great testament to the skills of our cheesemakers,” says O’Donnell.
He has worked at Fonterra Lichfield for nine years, looking after recipes, milk ordering and plant maintenance.
Lichfield can make 12 different types of cheeses like cheddar, gouda and parmesans, which can be mass produced in 42 specifications or recipes.
O’Donnell says high-quality milk from farms with top management practices are essential.
Water, fat and protein composition of milk differ day to day depending on weather and feed changes and recipes must be adapted accordingly.
“Milk on farms now is for feeding calves so it has high fat and low protein content; once we get the milk we look at standardising it daily.
“Because we make so many different types of cheese we check the milk composition daily; it can change from day milk to night milk, when it’s raining there’s more water in the milk -- it’s definitely a balancing act.”
The cheese is cartoned then sent to storage warehouses where maturation is closely monitored.
O’Donnell says workers at Lichfield “haven’t seen the medal yet but everyone is feeling great”.
A celebration barbecue will be held for all Lichfield staff.
Fonterra cheeses and butter won 12 gold, silver and bronze medals at the International Cheese Awards in the UK.
Casey Thomas, who oversees Fonterra NZMP Dairy Foods category, says it was outstanding to have so many Fonterra cheeses recognised.
“The results are special for everyone – the sites where the cheeses are made and the teams who market and sell them. Credit also to Fonterra farmers.”
Cheeses made at Eltham and Hautapu, butter from the Te Awamutu site and cheeses made at Fonterra’s Wynyard and Stanhope sites in Australia were also recognised for their quality and presentation.