Suiza Pioneer Alan Bernon Joins DFA

One of the key players who in the 1990s helped turn Suiza Foods into the top dairy processor in the United States, has joined Dairy Farmers of America.

Alan Bernon, who in May resigned from his position as president of the Dean Dairy Group will now help provide oversight to DFA’s investments and joint ventures.

“I am honored that Alan has agreed to join us in our mission to make DFA a stronger, more successful organization, and one that delivers greater value to our farmer owners,” said Rick Smith, pres./CEO of DFA. “Alan’s experience, entrepreneurial success and integrity make him an invaluable asset to DFA.”

Two years ago, Bernon was chosen to succeed Pete Schenkel in heading the Dairy Group.  Bernon came to Suiza when it acquired Garelick Farms, based in Franklin, Mass.  He was the third generation to work in that family business.

In this role, he will in addition, help guide and support any future merger, acquisition and joint-venture opportunities for the national milk marketing cooperative, with a title of senior advisor and president–Affiliate Division.

The Bernons sold the Garelick companies to Suiza Foods in 1997. It was the acquisition that launched Suiza on its path as the leading consolidator of dairy businesses in the United States.

Prairie Farms Closes Pevely Plant

Prairie Farms’ Pevely Dairy in St. Louis was put up for sale last month, and production has been moved to another facility.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the site is priced at $5.9 million. Prairie Farms, which bought Pevely Dairy in 1989, began moving its operations on Oct. 31 to a facility in Hazelwood, Mo.

Pevely’s history dates to the 1880s. It moved to St. Louis in 1917 and occupied a mid-city building at the corner of Chouteau Avenue and Grand Boulevard, where its name can still be seen from a nearby expressway.  With 350 delivery routes in the 1940s, Pevely’s milk became a leading brand in the St. Louis area.

More than 100 employees have lost their jobs with the closing, while about 20 others may move to Hazelwood. News reports say Prairie Farms is hoping to take advantage of development trends which could result in the area becoming more suited to residential and commercial uses.

Prairie Farms, based in Carlinville, Ill., operates more than 20 plants across the heartland and was No. 16 in this year’s Dairy 100.

USDA Makes Vitamin A Statement for WIC Milk

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently clarified that there has been no change in the nutrient requirements for any milk provided in the federal feeding program for women and children.

Whole milk remains exempt from the vitamin A fortification levels that are required for reduced-fat, lowfat or fat-free milk offered in the program.

When cream is separated from milk to produce reduced-fat, lowfat or fat-free milk, some of the vitamin A is removed with the fat. Because reduced-fat versions of milk must be nutritionally equivalent to whole milk, the Food and Drug Administration’s food labeling regulations require the lower-fat versions to be fortified with vitamin A.

USDA issued the clarification because its 2007 interim final rule revising the food packages for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) did not specifically exempt whole milk from the vitamin A fortification requirement.

According to USDA, “There has been no change in the nutrient requirements for any WIC-authorized milk. All WIC-authorized milks must be pasteurized and contain 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per quart of whole milk and 400 IU of vitamin D, plus 2000 IU of vitamin A per quart of reduced-fat, lowfat or fat-free milk. The nutrient requirement pertains to all authorized milks; for dried milk (i.e., powdered) and evaporated milk, vitamin requirements are per reconstituted quart.”

The interim rule is designed to align the food packages more closely with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and will be implemented by October 2009.

Dairy Forum CEO Panel to Discuss Global Dairy

Operating in a global economy continues to present new challenges as well as new opportunities for the U.S. dairy industry. At Dairy Forum 2009, Gregg Engles, chairman and CEO of Dean Foods Co., will lead a panel of global dairy executives who will share their perspective on the changing dairy environment around the world. Dairy Forum 2009 will be held January 11-14 at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort in Orlando, Fla. Visit

Obama May Bolster Inspection Ranks

A new Democratic administration could lead to additional funding for FDA inspectors-something that many in the dairy industry say has been sorely needed. A senior adviser to President-elect Obama has indicated that food safety issues will be among the top priorities. Neera Tanden stated recently that a “fundamental role of government is to ensure that people’s food is safe” and adding that the new President-elect is “concerned that we are not in a position to ensure that.” FDA is likely to monitor imports and fresh produce more closely under an Obama administration. Obama is being urged to move quickly to appoint an FDA commissioner. In late November more than a half-dozen names were in circulation, a mixture of FDA veterans and public health advocates from outside the beltway.

Tanden said Obama is open to the idea of requiring a tracing system for fresh produce. That became an issue during this summer’s salmonella outbreak, after the FDA spent weeks hunting for tainted tomatoes only to find the culprit might have been hot peppers.

Dairy Facts Hot off the Presses

Cheese production in the United States continued its long-term upward trend in 2007, reaching a record high of 9.7 billion pounds and increasing 1.8% over the previous year. This is just one of the many facts included in the 2008 edition of Dairy Facts, which is now available for purchase from the International Dairy Foods Association. 

The 2008 edition of Dairy Facts, published by IDFA and Dairy Foods magazine, provides a comprehensive overview of 2007 sales, consumption and production data for the dairy foods industry.

The data was compiled and reviewed by IDFA’s economic analysis division, led by Vice President Bob Yonkers, Ph.D.

The Dairy Facts 2008 edition is $30 for IDFA members and $50 for non-members. IDFA members also will receive substantial volume discounts when ordering bulk quantities.

Both electronic and print copies are available for purchase. For complete ordering information, visit     

Fonterra Cuts Ribbon on Chicago Tech Center

Fonterra Co-operative Group, has opened its new research and development center - the Chicago Technical Center (CTC) - in Chicago, near O’Hare International Airport.  Fonterra invested $2.4 million in the state-of-the-art facility, opened last month, which applies New Zealand intellectual property and technology to the benefit of both the New Zealand and US dairy industries. Customers will be able to come in and physically see the processes and taste the products, as Fonterra’s technical staff develop cheeses, yogurt, pediatric formulas, beverages and bars. Just four months ago, Fonterra USA moved its North American headquarters from Camp Hill, Pa., to the Rosemont area (next to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.) Having both the office and the new CTC in the Chicago area will make it simpler, faster and more effective to commercialize scientific innovations derived from Fonterra’s other research and development hubs in Palmerston North, Melbourne, and Hamburg.

Saputo Buys Neilson Dairy

George Weston has announced that its subsidiary, Weston Foods Canada, has agreed to sell its Neilson Dairy business to Saputo for around $360 million.

Saputo, based in Montreal,  has 9,200 employees in five countries, and said it will “inherit Neilson Dairy’s long-term relationships with its customers” as it expands its presence in the Ontario milk and cream market.

The completion of the transaction was expected to close late last month. 

In April Saputo completed the $160 million purchase of Waupun, Wis.-based cheesemaker Alto Dairy.