Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Cream of the crop

churning milk into butter

Prior to the 1950s, many communities had their own creameries that churned their local farmer’s milk into butter. But once refrigeration became widely available, it brought an explosion of food choice for consumers and a sea of change in the way those foods were produced and distributed.

Prince Edward Island’s Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL) is one company that grew along with technology to become a model of a successful agriculture cooperative.

Established in 1953, ADL was formed by consolidating seven dairy co-operatives in order to pool resources and buy the necessary equipment to meet industry needs. Since then, ADL has grown to include 97 percent of the approximately 185 island dairy producers. Their 275 employees ship milk, cheese, butter and evaporated milk products to customers across Canada, the United States, Asia and the Caribbean.

“Per capita, PEI is one of the richest dairy regions in North America, similar to Quebec and Wisconsin in the U.S.,” says Chad Mann, ADL’s Business Development Manager. “We’re a small place, but the cooler climate and lush farmland—provide a great base for natural feed—which is very attractive for the dairy industry.”

ADL’s extensive lines of cheese include asiago, parmesan, havarti, feta and gouda. But one of their largest exports is canned milk products, including bulk containers of sweetened condensed milk bound for restaurants and other industrial uses in the U.S.

“Only a handful of processors in North America make it, so it’s almost like a specialty product,” he says.

testing for quality

The co-operative model helps ADL dairy producers take advantage of market opportunities and get a share of the profits that derive from selling finished goods. It also allows the producers a stable market for their milk supply and gives them a say in the business and markets serviced.

“The producers here are thinking not only what’s best for their farm, but they’re thinking what’s best for their processor and growing the industry in PEI as a whole.”

When it comes to competing in the marketplace against larger regions, ADL believes that ACOA assistance levels has been key.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to adopt new technologies that help us stay competitive and efficient,” says Chad. “The assistance that ACOA has provided has helped push some projects along faster or made them more economically viable than they would have been otherwise.”

Going forward, affordability will not be the only concern for food consumers.

“They want safe, healthy and sustainable options, a word that is going to be more important as we head into the future. We’re in an industry that can definitely provide that.”

Healthy food products, along with a balanced and fair approach that helps all parts of their industry work effectively—now that’s sustainability.

Read: "More space for Amalgamated Dairies Limited" (The Guardian - January 31, 2016)

Published December 2, 2014