Ont. backs dairy co-op for new products

A storied southwestern Ontario dairy co-operative will use public funds to help buy processing equipment to make new snacks and specialty cheeses and boost its demand from local dairy farms.

The province on Thursday pledged $100,000 from its rural economic development program for Pine River Cheese and Butter Co-operative of Kincardine to buy “state-of-the-art” equipment to process the trims and ends left over from shaping larger pieces of cheese into smaller blocks.

The investment will allow Pine River to develop “healthy snack and specialty cheese items,” develop new packaging and marketing materials and process another one million litres of milk per year.

It will also allow the co-op to create three new “highly-skilled” full-time jobs and train five employees to run the new equipment.

“Having the provincial support to convert our cheese trims and ends into new products has been essential,” Pine River’s general manager Vijay Kumar said in the province’s release.

“With this equipment, product development, trials and training we reduce waste, innovate with new products and create added-value jobs in the community.”

“This project will not only help Pine River remain strong in today’s economy, but will also help them to grow and expand,” provincial Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell, whose riding includes Kincardine, said in the same release.

The Pine River co-op was established by dairy and hog farmers in 1885 and now has 35 patron dairy producers. The co-op now makes and sells over 2.25 million pounds of cheese per year and employs over 40 people.

The co-op, which moved from the bulk production to the wholesale and retail business during the 1990s, now has its products available in over 800 locations in the province and also sells from its own retail store.

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