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Cheese Makers in Wisconsin worried about possible dry ice shortage

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 5:20 PM CST
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CADOTT, Wis. (WEAU) -Cheese makers in Wisconsin are concerned about a potential ingredient shortage they share with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Yellowstone Cheese in Cadott has been making cheese since 2007. Manager Jeff Soppeland said dairy cultures are key to producing this Wisconsin staple.

“We get cultures because when we pasteurize the milk, it kills the bad culture in the milk or bacteria,” Soppeland said. “And what the cultures are, is now we’re adding bacteria back into the cheese for the cheese making process.”

These bacteria acidify the milk. That’s important in the preservation, the flavor and the texture of cheese.

Yellowstone Cheese doesn’t make these cultures at its own facility.

They’re shipped in at sub-zero temperatures in order to stay viable.

“It comes in boxes, Styrofoam cooler and it’s packed with dry ice to maintain the freezing point of the culture,” Soppeland said.

This shared need for dry ice in the dairy industry and for the COVID-19 vaccine is a concern for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

“As we cheer the arrival of a vaccine, and we know how important that is, cows don’t stop producing milk either,” said Rebekah Sweeney, the Communications, Education and Policy Director for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “We still have to process this milk into dairy products to feed people, so our use of dry ice is also essential.”

Wisconsin has three large manufacturers of dairy cultures producing the majority of the world’s supply.

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association said every week those manufacturers use 350,000 pounds of dry ice.

Sweeney said dairy products, dairy cultures and dry ice go hand-in-hand.

“There is no substitute for dairy cultures in the manufacture of your favorite dairy products, and there is no substitute for dry ice when we get those cultures manufactured and distributed across Wisconsin, around the nation and all around the world.”

The Cheese Makers Association said it hopes it can work with federal and state officials to prevent a shortage of dry ice.

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