St. Albans, Cabot co-ops celebrate a century and look for new markets

With Vermont dairy farmers struggling to survive, milk industry leaders are looking for the next big thing in dairy.

For Cabot Creamery Cooperative, that just might be cheese cubes for dogs. The Vermont cooperative, which has about 900 member farms, will roll out dairy-based dog treats sometime in the second quarter of the year, said CEO and President Ed Townley. They’ll be made from the trim left over from processing in Cabot’s own cheese factories, and will be sold in 3-ounce packages.



Dogs can handle dairy in small doses, said Townley, whose family dog is featured on the package.

“It’s a $60 billion marketplace just for dogs,” he said. “It’s growing at a rate much faster than human food.”

St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and Cabot both turn 100 this year. Cabot started with about 95 members; St. Albans with about 25.

  These are complex times for the dairy industry. Interest in natural, local food is rising, bringing organic farmers a premium price for their milk, cheese and yogurt. Greek yogurt, introduced a decade ago, has been a runaway success, prompting growth in the yogurt market. Meanwhile, the spread of robotic milkers has freed the farmers who can afford the technology from the twice-daily ritual of milking.

But at the same time, oversupply has created four years of low milk prices. Environmental concerns have damaged dairy’s reputation and brand. Trade policy is hurting exports, and cow’s milk faces new competition on the grocery store shelves from milk-like beverages concocted from ingredients like soy, almonds, coconut and macadamia nuts.

Meanwhile, farmers, like so many other business owners, are starting to retire and don’t always have someone on hand to take their place.

Now, industry leaders like Cabot are looking for ways to diversify their product offerings to find new markets for milk products. And farmers themselves are looking for ways to diversify through new crops, value-added products and agritourism.

“Farmers are becoming more sophisticated about not just their business but about the co-op business,” said Townley. “It’s important for them financially.”

The U.S. dairy industry is going into its fifth year of … Read More >


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