Since it produces approximately 2 million pounds of cheese a day, it is oftentimes difficult to remember that Hilmar Cheese Company—the largest single-site cheese processor in the world—is known for more than just cheese.
Rather, it is the process that leads up to these 2 million pounds of cheese that has recently earned the company the honor of receiving the Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability award during the fourth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards earlier this month.
“While we never set out to win any awards, it’s a great honor to be recognized in this way,” said David Ahlem, chief operating officer. “Our employees work hard to be a good steward of our resources and to give back to our communities.
“We have water conservation measures and water recycling in place at both sites and this award also reflects community activities in both locations,” continued Ahlem.
Embedded in Hilmar Cheese Company’s process to make cheese is water conservation. Considering that the company makes 2 million pounds of cheese each day, it has to use a lot of milk, which is approximately 87 percent water.
Thanks to new technology, the company is able to reclaim nearly 100 percent of this water from incoming milk and in turn treat it at the plant, where it is used up to three times for various processes, including crop irrigation, facility landscaping and internal reuse.
Another aspect that contributed to Hilmar Cheese Company’s sustainability efforts was the Hilmar LEED Platinum headquarters and innovation center. As the first dairy building throughout the nation to receive LEED Platinum certification, it utilizes solar energy, natural and occupancy lighting and multiple recycling efforts.
To earn the Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability award, Hilmar Cheese Company had to demonstrate overall corporate sustainability, which took into consideration not only environmental impacts, but community impacts as well.
Community outreach at Hilmar Cheese Company comes in the form of free tours at the Visitors Center that allow guests to try out free samples as well as delicious food, espresso and ice cream from the café.
These tours, which attract tens of thousands of people each year, are the perfect opportunity for the community to get a firsthand look at how Hilmar Cheese Company makes cheese daily and to find out more about how dairy plays a vital role in the sustainable food cycle.
“As far as we know, we are the only non-branded facility that does this much community outreach,” said spokesperson Denise Skidmore.
The Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center is located at 9001 N. Lander Ave. For more information on tours, call 656-1196.