There’s a huge Milky Way in Sunnyside that few people know exists.
Each morning, truck after truck, all marked Milky Way, turn into the driveway of the Darigold Sunnyside plant, back up to the offloading pumps and by the end of the day, have off-loaded 8.7 million pounds of raw milk to the plant.
The plant opened in 1991 as a facility to process raw milk into non-fat dry milk powder. It was expanded in 1995 to add cheese and sweet whey production capabilities. It was expanded again in 1997, 2001 and 2006.
This spring Darigold expanded the plant again, adding another 35,000-sq.-feet enabling the plant to process non-fat dry milk powder in an extremely environmentally controlled atmosphere.
“This product is used for infant formulas and supplemental formulas for those from youths to the elderly who need a nutritional boost,” said Dermont Carey, executive vice-president, ingredients and global business development for Darigold.
On June 22 Darigold held a grand opening and invited dairy farmers who are members of the cooperative and the media to attend.
The recent $97 million expansion also increased the plants’ capacity from 5.2 million pounds of raw processed milk daily to 7.7 million pounds. This allows the facility to up its production of cheese, whey and non-fat dry milk substantially.
The Sunnyside facility produces yellow and white cheddar, dry salt gouda and Monterey Jack cheese. Currently its capacity is 195 million pounds a year.
“We can produce 11 43-pound blocks of cheese every minute,” Tom Rouleau, technology manager for the Sunnyside plant, said.
“The cheese is then aged and graded before packaging into smaller blocks. Most of it will end up in U.S. grocery stores and restaurant supply outlets but 15 to 20 percent will be exported, primarily to Japan,” Rouleau said.
“Indonesia is the primary importer of whey, which is used in products such as ice cream; cheese; adult and children’s nutritional supplements; and evaporated milk. They don’t have access to a lot of refrigeration so the dried whey is very useful in a lot of applications,” Carey said.
Darigold, with nearly 500 members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, is one of the world’s largest agricultural cooperatives.
“And Sunnyside is—if not our largest—one of our largest plants. Most of the milk is produced at dairies within 30 miles of this plant,” Rouleau said.
“Each of those trucks carry 70,000 gallons of fluid milk and we’ll get 120 or so loads a day. It takes 25 minutes to have the milk tested and unloaded, then the tanks are rinsed and sent back to a dairy,” Rouleau said, adding that each truck is washed and sanitized every 24 hours.
Darigold is an environmentally green company, said Scott Burleson, senior vice president of operations at Darigold.
The water evaporated from the milk when it’s processed into non-fat dry milk or cheese is used to wash down the plant’s equipment. Then it’s captured and pumped to the Port of Sunnyside, which uses it to water alfalfa fields.
“That alfalfa feeds the cows around here. It’s a great green circle,” Burleson said.
For more information about Darigold and the company’s products, go to www.darigold.com.
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