The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU dairy products popular novelty

For over 70 years, Mississippi State University’s homegrown dairy products have been sent all over the world to places such as Belize, South Korea, Afghanistan and Puerto Rico.
In 1938, MSU began cultivating its own Edam cheese under the direction of professor H.F. Herzer. Under his direction, the Department of Diary Science produced a few hundred Edams a year. Now, the dairy plant on campus produces 400 Edams a day.
Over the years, demand grew for MSU’s Edam, and the department switched buildings in 1970, which allowed more room for additional cheese expansion. Today, the plant is run by six full-time employees and six part-time students in a semi-commercial size laboratory.
In addition to cheese, the dairy plant churns out 600 gallons of milk and 500 gallons of ice cream weekly, a portion of which goes to MSU food services.
David Hall, plant manager at Custer Dairy Processing Plant, attributes the cheese and other products’ success to the human feel of the whole operation.
“Our milk is very high quality, and our aging is much longer than most of the cheese you buy in the market. Everything is done manually; there is very little automation and the quality of the ingredients we use is very high,” Hall said.
Although the dairy plant does all the production and shipping, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station sales store often gets most of the compliments from consumers. Office manager Deborah Huffman interacts with all kinds of MSU cheese aficionados.
“It’s very good. I cannot tell you how may people come in or tell me over the phone, ‘I got this cheese last year, and I have to get it again this year,'” Huffman said, “We have many repeat customers, some people have been buying our cheese for more than 30 years.”
In 2005, the MAFES store moved up from the back of the Herzer complex to a street-view position on Stone Boulevard. Since the move, from 2005 to 2006 there was a 50-percent sales increase, and from 2006 to 2007, there was a 30-percent sales increase. According to MSU President Mark Keenum’s April video update, the MAFES store is the most visited venue on MSU football game-days, aside from Davis Wade Stadium.
However, in-store purchases do not make up the majority of sales. Most cheese is shipped — to anywhere from Jackson, Miss., to Bangkok, Thailand. Christmas is the busiest time of the year for the dairy plant’s shipping schedule.
“We will ship about 10,000 packages Nov. 29, and then we will ship 7,000 or 8,000 the next Monday,” Huffman said. “I’m always grateful when Christmas is over, that’s something to look forward to because it gets so stressful in here.”
Freshman Katelyn Mitchell, biological sciences major, is one of those who indulges in the tradition of MSU cheese over the holidays.
“For Christmas, my family always has a big block of cheese at my grandmother’s house for everybody. It’s kind of a tradition around Christmas time; we eat MSU cheese. You can recognize it as MSU cheese; it’s just better,” Mitchell said.
Although the amount of dairy products produced by the plant has changed over the years, the process has not. Hall said he is convinced the longevity of the plant’s system has led to the final product’s overall consistency.
“The way we are doing things today is the way we did things 50 years ago for the most part. We may have replaced some machines out of necessity, but the process has not changed in any way over the years,” Hall said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
MSU dairy products popular novelty