Starting and operating a dairy plant in Minnesota can be an exciting venture. Whether you aspire to bottle milk or create delicious dairy products like cheese, butter, ice cream, or yogurt, there are important steps to consider. This guide will provide you with insights and resources needed to navigate the process successfully.
What Defines a Dairy Plant?
In accordance with Minnesota law, a dairy plant encompasses any facility involved in the manufacturing, processing, or handling of dairy products. This includes establishments such as milk-receiving stations, creameries, cheese factories, condenseries, milk plants, transfer stations, and marketing organizations that purchase milk and cream directly from producers for resale. It is important to note that places solely engaged in wholesale or retail sales, without the processing of dairy products, do not fall under the category of dairy plants. Furthermore, every load of milk destined for a dairy plant must undergo antibiotic residue testing prior to unloading.
Starting Your Own Dairy Plant
When embarking on the journey of starting a dairy processing plant in Minnesota, it is crucial to consult with the knowledgeable dairy inspection staff at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). They can provide guidance and assist you throughout the entire process, from the initial planning stages to the final completion of your plant.
Before commencing operations, all dairy plants must obtain both a license and a permit. The cost of a Dairy Plant License varies depending on expected gross sales and is billed annually. Additionally, the plant’s equipment, water supply, and plumbing system must undergo a thorough review and approval by the MDA to receive a permit. A comprehensive permit application should include duplicate floor plans of the plant with equipment placements, details about the water supply and distribution, a pasteurization flow chart, and the plumbing system’s layout, including waste disposal.
If you are considering constructing a new facility or making alterations to an existing one, including shared commercial kitchen spaces, the MDA must review and approve these plans prior to initiating construction or using the space for dairy product processing. A fee of $45 per hour of staff time spent on the review is applicable in these cases.
Minnesota Farmstead Cheese
In Minnesota, we take pride in our Minnesota Farmstead Cheese, which is cheese produced on the very farm where the milk used in its manufacturing originates. Only dairy plants holding a Minnesota Farmstead Cheese permit and producing cheese that meets the definition of Minnesota Farmstead Cheese are permitted to use this designation. The Farmstead Cheese License costs $30 and is billed annually. If you are interested in making farmstead cheese, the Safe Cheesemaking Hub offers a wealth of food safety resources specially curated for cheese makers.
Ice Cream and Frozen Dairy Desserts
Ice cream manufacturing has become increasingly popular in Minnesota. If you are considering venturing into this delightful world, the Safe Ice Cream Hub is your go-to resource. It provides ice cream manufacturers with easy access to essential food safety information, training, and support.
Dairy Plant Inspections
To ensure the quality and safety of the dairy supply, all licensed and permitted dairy plants undergo routine inspections conducted by MDA dairy inspectors. These inspections encompass thorough examinations of production areas, processing equipment, pasteurizers, and sampling. Dairy processors must bear the cost for inspections, licensing, and other related activities. For detailed information on fee types and amounts, you can refer to the Dairy Processor Fees page on the MDA website.
To get a glimpse into the dairy plant inspection process and the critical role it plays in upholding dairy quality and safety, watch the videos below:
Starting your own dairy plant in Minnesota is more than just a business endeavor; it is an opportunity to contribute to our rich agricultural heritage and provide people with high-quality dairy products. By following the necessary steps and regulations, consulting with the MDA, and making use of the available resources, you can embark on a successful and fulfilling dairy plant journey.
To learn more about starting a dairy plant in Minnesota, visit the Ames Farm Center.