First Natural Cheese Plant in Arizona Opens [TEMPE, AZ]
After answering an advertisement placed by Tempe, AZ based United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA)
in 'The Cheese Reporter' in May of 2007, conversations began between Wisconsin based
Wiskerchen Cheese Company (WCI) and UDA regarding the development of a joint venture
between the two companies. Thomas Wiskerchen, CEO of WCI, was in need of
expanding the company's Blue Cheese manufacturing operation in Auburndale, WI, or locating an alternative area to expand into.
Tom had been considering a move out west for some time and had previously considered both Idaho and California for the company's
expansion. After reading the ad in 'The Cheese Reporter' that described UDA's desire
to develop a business relationship in its Casa Grande plant (which was idle at the time), an Arizona-based cheese plant and
UDA represented a very viable option.
Plant designs were originally taken from two-dimensional concepts on paper and remodeling of UDA's
former butter plant began. Starting with a new building addition to accommodate two milk silos and two whey silos, a milk
pasteurizer was added, along with a major internal plant remodeling project. Boasting three new 40,000 pound cheese making vats,
four whey drain tables, curd and whey handling equipment, a cheese packaging line, and an artisanal cheese making room for
specialty old-world cheese manufacturing, the Arizona Cheese Company finally had become an operational reality.
Nearly two-and-a-half years after discussions began, the Arizona Cheese Company made its first vat of Blue Cheese and Cheddar
Cheese on Monday, July 20, 2009. Manufacturing and packaging has continued during typical five-day weeks while volumes are
gradually increased. Plan designs enable processing eventually of around 500,000 pounds of milk per day. Arizona has become
second only to Wisconsin in the total number of pounds produced of Blue-veined cheeses, and is now the largest producer of
private-label Blue-veined cheeses in the United States. Arizona Cheese Blue-veined cheeses (Blue and Gorgonzola) can be found
locally in Fry's (Private Selection Brand) and Safeway
(Lucerne Brand) grocery stores.
All Blue Cheese is bulk-packaged and shipped to Wisconsin where it is placed in a cave environment allowing it to "bloom".
After curing and aging, the cheese is then crumbled and packaged and sold to customers throughout the United States. The
Arizona Cheese Company is presently certified by both the State of Arizona Dept. of Agriculture
and the USDA.
The company's fresh Cheese Curds, Cheddar Cheese, Monterey Jack, and Pepper Jack are made weekly and are available onsite at
UDA's Milk 'n More Store, area Farmer's
Markets, Costco, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and at several ASU campus locations. Adam Stutsman,
Joe Hutman, and Rion McGowen lead a team of twenty dedicated people committed to making and packaging the finest cheeses in Arizona.
The Arizona Cheese Company is proud to bring award-winning cheese to the people of Arizona, the true beneficiaries of this vision
made real by the United Dairymen of Arizona.