Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beaver Dam Plant Tour … The Heart of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

Being the Philly Cream Cheese lover that I am, getting to take a sneak peek into the heart of the operation where all that creamy goodness is made … well it’s like being a kid in Santa’s Toy shop! I’ve gotten the inside scoop on just how they make Philly Cream Cheese and where most of it comes from.

Let’s start way back in the early 1900’s. What was once the Old Woolen Mills, sat vacant. In 1924 the Phenix Cheese Corporation converted the mill into a cheese factory. At that time, they were the only producer of Philadelphia ® cream cheese. In 1928, the Kraft Cheese Corp. purchased the entire Phenix Cheese Corp and Kraft-Phenix was born. In 1940, the name was changed back to the Kraft Cheese Company. Kraft Beaver Dam is the longest continually operating Philadelphia® cream cheese plant in the U.S.

The plant has transformed significantly over the years and so has the process of making cream cheese. In the old days, the cream cheese curd was placed in cloth bags and stacked on deep tables where crushed ice was packed around it helping to drain out the whey from the curd. All of these methods were state of the art at the time, but times change. Today, there are machines that separate the cream cheese. By 1949, the was plant producing some 20 million pounds of cheese annually. Over the next few decades, the Kraft Beaver Dam Facility underwent many remodeling projects, each making the plant more modern and efficient. In 1990, the plant unveiled Light Philadelphia ® Cream Cheese, one of the most successful products to date.

In 2003, the Kraft Beaver Dam held a huge celebration to commemorate their 75 year anniversary. They created a special tour that let people experience the process of making cream cheese, start to finish. The various stops along the way included the Quality Dip Line, which can produce different flavors as well as different size containers of product. Samples were also given out here … yum! They showed off the Portion Control Line that produces the little 1 and ¾ ounce containers you get at a deli and Line 7, called the Osgood, which produces the Soft, Light, and flavored products. The Bulk Fill Area and Palletizing Farm were also toured. At the Palletizing Farm, as many as 4 lines are palletized at one time without a single human touch. The tour also let people peek at Rigid, where cream cheese is packaged quickly before your eyes and the Cook Room, where flavors are added to the cream cheese.

I always like to know where my favorite foods come from and thanks to this little book, I am now an educated Philadelphia® Cream Cheese eater.

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