One of the questions we often get about our Horizon Organic brand, is where the milk goes and what happens to it after we pick it up from one of our family farms. All of our organic milk goes to a network of processing plants around the country, where it’s made into the delicious Horizon products you see in your local grocery store. We wanted to share more about that process and one of our production facilities with you through a Q&A we conducted with our Mt. Crawford, Virginia plant manager Drew Maltese, operations manager Andy Morris, and production planner manager Randy Thomas.
Describe what happens when you receive a tanker of raw milk and cream.
We run the milk and cream into separate organic receiving tanks and our on-site lab then runs a quality check for bacteria, temperature, fats and solids, and antibiotics. When cleared by our lab, the product is ready for batching, then is tested again for butterfat and solids.
Then the milk is pasteurized, using ultra high temperature for a short time through a process called Direct Steam Injection. It then goes into a vacuum chamber to remove the steam, through a cooler and into a surge tank. From there, it runs to the filler, which puts the product into cartons. After it’s packaged, it’s held for 30 hours to check for microbiological issues, leakage etc. and ensure it is fit to ship to our customers.
What would you want people to know about the Mount Crawford plant?
All of the hard work our famers do to ensure milk quality is not lost at the plant. We take the utmost care in handling their milk. There are quality checks at every step of the process to ensure a quality product goes out to our customers. Our employees are proud to be a part of WhiteWave and they feel very connected to all of the brands that we make.
The Mount Crawford plant has an impressive track record of sustainable practices. Can you provide a couple of highlights of your efforts?
Green Manufacturer magazine recently highlighted one of our energy-saving initiatives – we retrofitted lighting throughout the plant with LEDs. We’re currently the largest manufacturing site in North America with the most LED lighting installed. You can read the full article here: greenmanufacturer.net/article/facilities/led-lighting-retrofit-isorganic-for-ecoresponsible-food-producer.
We’ve also put a high focus on reducing the amount of utilities we use. The plant team regularly audits and reduces water usage. And we also do more recycling at the plant now than we’ve ever done before. In Virginia, recycling isn’t always convenient, so we put in a big recycling bin out in our employee parking lot to make it easier for employees to recycle. It gets filled up every week! We also enable our employees to grow some of their own food. Our plant sits on 100 acres, and the plant takes up 35 of those acres. This year, we’ve taken some of that land and divided it into garden plots for employees and their families to grow vegetables.