Cheese specialist leads the whey

January 18, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Fresh mozzarella. Gorgonzola, Camembert and Gouda. This isn't your grandfather's American cheese. Consumption of specialty cheeses is skyrocketing in the United States and - according to the International Dairy Foods Association 2005 report - supermarket sales of Gouda are up 23 percent, Muenster up 29 percent and Mexican cheese up 55 percent in just one year.

But unfortunately for local dairy farmers, most of these cheeses are imported.

"There's no reason why Oregon farmers can't produce these specialty cheeses with the same taste and quality as the imports," said Lisbeth Goddik, Oregon State University's Extension dairy specialist.

When Goddik joined OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences in 1999, Oregon's cheese industry was dominated by a few large-scale operations. Since then nearly a dozen small-scale artisan and farmstead cheese-making companies have opened across Oregon.

Educated in Denmark and trained in France, Goddik has brought European cheese-making knowledge to these small, family-owned operations. She teaches cheese-making in OSU's Department of Food Science and Technology and extends her expertise to cheese-makers across the state.

For example, Goddik worked side-by-side with David Gremmels, co-owner of the internationally-acclaimed Rogue Valley Creamery in Central Point, Ore., to improve the creamery's production standards and launch its national marketing strategies. Gremmels said that Goddik's "astute, experienced palate" and sensory evaluation helped ensure that his cheddars taste a world away from commercially made cheddar cheese.

"She's so passionate about what she does," said Gremmels. "She's one of the greatest assets Oregon has for those with a stake in artisan cheeses."

John Coelho, who helps to run his family's dairy in Woodburn, agrees. Three years ago, when the Coelho family considered expanding their milk business to include fresh Mexican cheese, they turned to Goddik. Coelho's uncle had attended her cheese-making workshop and came away convinced that the family could succeed.

Goddik consulted with the family on the design and construction of their processing plant. She worked with them to ensure milk of the highest quality made its way into their queso fresco. Today, the Coelho family can't produce enough cheese to meet their customers' demands.

And John Coelho says Goddik is the expert they needed to get their business off the ground.

As part of OSU Extension, Goddik travels across Oregon for hands-on cheese manufacturing and food safety workshops and one-on-one sessions with cheese-makers. She will lead a cheese-making workshop at the Food Innovation Center in Portland Feb. 21-23 and a short course on food safety at the WestFarm Foods dairy plant in Portland Feb. 28 to March 2.

Author: Michele Taylor, Peg Herring
Source: Lisbeth Goddik, David Gremmels, John Coelho