From cow to creemee: a story of energy efficiency and Vermont

by Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont

      

Nothing says summer in Vermont like a classic creemee. I got to have my first creemee of the season just last week and, between bites, it really got me thinking. So, in celebration of the season, I’d like to take you on a sweet journey through the life of a creemee – and all the places where energy efficiency can, and does, play a part.

Energy efficiency starts in the barn

Although the number of dairy farms in Vermont has been on the decline in recent decades, dairy products sold directly from farms generate more than $560 million of income each year. In other words, Vermont’s 140,000 mature cows are a big deal for our state’s economy.

As with any other facility – there is a lot that dairy farmers can do to reduce costs and improve energy efficiency. And the benefits are even bigger than you might expect: when a herd is more comfortable and healthy due to the use of improved lighting and ventilation, they produce more milk that we can use for cheese, butter, yogurt and all those yummy summertime creemees. And improved and more efficient refrigeration also helps keep the milk properly cooled and ready for processing.

From barn to bottle – and creemee cone

By regulation, milk must be collected from dairy farms no less than every 48 hours to ensure freshness and quality. It is loaded into a milk truck and transported to a processing facility, such as the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery where it is tested for quality before processing. With 423 member farms from throughout Vermont, New York and New Hampshire, the St. Albans Co-op’s facility processes and markets approximately 400,000 gallons of milk every single day.

Over the years, the St. Albans Cooperative has done a good deal of work to minimize energy waste in both their processing facility and store. To date, they have collaborated with Efficiency Vermont on more than 15 projects including refrigeration, lighting, and processing equipment upgrades. With the recent completion of a brand new, energy efficient store to serve their member farmers, and the general public, the construction of a new process building addition, and the installation of new milk powder processing and packaging equipment to replace aging and inefficient equipment, they are taking their efficiency efforts even further.

Although the milk processed by the St. Albans Cooperative is ultimately used in a wide variety of products, the one that most attracts my attention on a warm summer evening is the creemee mix.  Over the course of the 2013 summer season, they will be providing various establishments with their mix for both creemees and ice cream: And it all started with Vermont cows, and Vermont farms!

So next time you get a creemee craving, ask where the creemee mix came from – and let them know about all the great work that the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and its member farmers are doing on energy efficiency right in our backyard.

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