Wisconsin dairy co-op to donate cheese to Midwest food banks

Burnett Dairy Cooperative is donating thousands of pounds of cheese to food banks and nonprofits across the Midwest, including the Twin Cities. (Burnett Dairy Cooperative)

Burnett Dairy Cooperative, a Wisconsin-based cheese manufacturer located about 75 miles northeast of Minneapolis, is giving back in a time of need.

“Although we cannot control the pandemic or what’s going on today we certainly can try to do our part in contributing to make a difference and that’s what we’re doing,” said Dan Dowling, Burnett Dairy Cooperative CEO and president.

The facility is converting milk into cheese that will be donated to food banks and a number of nonprofits in the Twin Cities metro and throughout the Midwest.

“We’re all feeling this pain, a lot of people have been impacted, a lot of loved ones have been impacted,” said Dowling.

These donations come at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing some dairy farmers to dump thousands of gallons of milk as demand shrinks with the closure of restaurants and schools. Dowling says discarding the milk was not an option.

“We never wanted to dump our patrons’ milk,” he said. “We wanted to convert it into cheese. We want to keep our operations and keep employees employed, we wanted to not impact the farmers whatsoever and that’s what we’re doing.”

The company is churning out mozzarella and provolone in various shapes and sizes. They have committed to donating 45,000 pounds of cheese, and anticipate that number will swell to more than 100,000 pounds in the coming months.

“This is uncharted territory for all of us and so what we can do to make a difference, that’s what we can focus on. Do our part in this,” said Dowling.

The cooperative is made up of about 120 family farms and employs nearly 300 people. Twin Cities Catholic Charities will receive its first shipment of cheese this coming Thursday.