By Adam Mueller
Minerva Dairy was founded in 1894 by my relative Max P. Radloff, who established Radloff Cheese in Hustisford, Wis. During the early 1900s, Max built multiple cheesemaking locations, culminating with Minerva Dairy, which began producing bottled milk, ice cream, butter and cheese in 1935.
Rudy Radloff, a third-generation cheesemaker, managed the Hustisford Radloff Cheese location, while, his sister, Lorraine Radloff Mueller, managed the Radloff Cheese location in Minerva, Ohio.
By 1940, Max had 26 locations producing cheese and butter in multiple states. As refrigeration and transportation improved, the facilities were consolidated into two locations: Minerva and Hustisford. The Hustisford location closed its doors in 2003 after 111 years of cheese production. Minerva Dairy still stands and remains family-run by the Mueller family.
I learned the business just as the generations before us had: from my parents. We’re proud of the fact that our family has passed its knowledge of and passion for the family dairy business from generation to generation. Each generation has taken the opportunity to use that knowledge and expand upon it as our industry and world continue to change.
Minerva Dairy focuses on artisanal cheese and butter
We take great pride in bringing our love for food to the dinner tables of families across the country. It truly is our passion to serve home culinary artisans, understanding that today’s shoppers put greater emphasis on quality over quantity. It is this focus on artisanal and craft brands that has helped us to thrive for five generations.
We have also actively expanded on the movement towards craft brands by leading the conversation about transparency. Beyond the small batch, handcrafted quality of our butters and cheeses, consumers continue to put their trust in not only the product but also the people behind it. Dairy processors that are transparent and that source milk locally from farmers who are equally transparent are likely to gain market share as a result.
Minerva Dairy takes great pride in its humane treatment of cows. All of the family farms we rely on employ these practices and share in our philosophy. Cows are all pasture-raised and are given the opportunity to live and graze happily.
As the dairy industry has evolved, so has Minerva Dairy. We have become a voice for the humane treatment of animals and locally sourced ingredients from America’s dwindling network of family farms.
Batch-churned butter is a premium dairy product
Across the industry, price variability can pose a challenge. As more dairy products are imported to the United States below the market value of domestically produced dairy, family farms can suffer. However, aside from the difficulties that arise for all businesses, we are fortunate to be in a category that is continuously growing.
Consumers are also educated enough to support us as experts in our field. In doing so, they are supporting the family farms that defy the declining statistics in surrounding states.
While low commodity prices for milk are a concern for the entire industry, we overcome this challenge by educating consumers about our 84% butterfat batch-churned butter.Its texture, flavor and quality justify its cost, which the entire Minerva Dairy family stands behind.
Dairy products, and butter in particular, will continue to grow in the coming years. Butter has been and will continue to outpace alternatives such as butter blends, oils and margarine.
Consumers have started to recognize that butter, just like cheese, can be categorized as artisanal and contribute to an outstanding meal with nuanced flavors not found in the traditional commodity butter. We are at the forefront of this movement.
By Adam Mueller is a fifth-generation family member and president of Minerva Dairy.