Central California to Get New Cheese Processing Plant

January 21, 2013 05:55 AM

The Tulare plant will process 4 million pounds of milk a day from local dairies into American cheeses.

Plans are underway to build a new cheese processing plant in the heart of California dairy country.

CaliCheese Company plans to build the $250 million facility in Tulare, Calif. The proposed plant will process 4 million pounds of milk a day from local dairies into blocks of American cheeses such as cheddar, pepperjack and Monterey jack. The plant will also produce whey-derived products that are popular in Asia and for health drink supplements, as well as permeate, a byproduct that will be used as animal feed.

"In our case, we're sitting right in the middle of the major California milk shed and therefore we'll be using up that milk to the dairy farmers benefit," project development manager Jeffrey Lee was quoted as saying in Western United Dairymen’s Jan. 18, 2013 Weekly Update.

News reports say CaliCheese expects to break ground on the facility this summer and to open in 2015. The automated, computerized 300,000-square-foot plant will be located on West Paige Avenue, near the Tulare waste-water treatment plant. Several other companies operate milk-processing plants in the Tulare area, including Haagen-Dazs, Land O’Lakes, Morningstar, Kraft and Saputo (which has two facilities). Leprino and California Dairies Inc. also operate dairy plants within a 30-mile radius.

Lee said the Tulare City Council’s Tuesday night approval to sell the property for just over $2 million means the company has almost completed the steps necessary to secure the $350 million financing needed to cover building the plant and related costs. Lee said locking up the site was also key to finalizing milk supply, which he said is also part of the financing process.

The new plant is expected to bring 220 jobs to Tulare.

Lee also said CaliCheese expect its products to be marketed "by a major industry entity" he would not name because the deal is not quite finalized, and will be distributed under a major brand name nationally rather than locally, as well as in Asia.

Tulare County accounts for more than 27% of California’s milk production, according the California Department of Food and Agriculture. County dairies produced more than 5.9 billion pounds of milk between January and June 2012.

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