The Oregon dairy industry has an estimated value of more than $2.6 billion statewide and is responsible for more than 12,000 jobs and $500 million in wages, according to the 2019 Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council’s annual report. The state's continued growth in dairy production has created a burst of new dairy products – artisan cheeses, ice creams, yogurts and creamers – that are being developed with the help of Oregon State University food scientists.
Lisbeth Goddik, OSU Extension dairy processing specialist, leads OSU’s program to help dairy manufacturers and entrepreneurs develop new products to reach diverse markets. OSU's food science faculty work with dairy manufacturers on food safety and conduct audits so smaller producers can become certified to sell their products to stores, and they participate in the Oregon Cheese Guild, helping to sustain the state’s artisan cheesemakers – who have won numerous awards from the American Cheese Society – and keep them abreast of the latest research and technology.
The program got a huge boost in June, when OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences announced a new $20 million state-of-the-art dairy processing facility that will further advance the university and Oregon’s dairy industry as national leaders in dairy quality, innovation and sustainability. The three lead donors, who made gifts through the Oregon State University Foundation, were Tillamook County Creamery Association, Northwest Farm Credit Services and the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.
“Oregon State University has been a key partner in the development of dairy in Oregon,” said Patrick Criteser, president & CEO of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, which sells dairy products under the Tillamook brand name. “This new facility will help us establish Oregon as a leader in the nation in developing innovative dairy practices and products vital for the future of the industry.”
With access to state-of-the-art equipment, students will be better positioned to pursue careers in many aspects of the dairy industry, said Goddik, department head for Food Science and Technology.
“We are one of the largest dairy processing research programs in the nation,” Goddik said. “This new facility will significantly enlarge the area of our dairy plant and set us up to do an even better job training students for careers in the industry while also expanding our ability to provide critical research in sustainability, dairy innovation and product quality.
“Our students are heavily recruited by industry. This new facility will only expand their expertise while also providing them a larger home to continue to research, work and study together."
The college already produces Beaver Classic cheeses and with the new facility will be able to add new dairy products such as ice cream. A recent donation of a blast freezer from the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association has given students and faculty the ability to experiment with making ice cream.