Burley co-op adding high-demand protein concentrate to offerings
One of Idaho's leading dairy processors has undertaken a major expansion that nearly doubles its output. The $50 million project will allow Burley-based cooperative High Desert Milk to increase its annual butter output from 45 million pounds to 85 million pounds and add a new, high-demand milk-powder product called MPC-70 to its lineup.
MPC-70 is a milk-protein concentrate containing 70 percent protein that is in great demand worldwide. Boasting a light milky aroma and clean milky taste, MPC-70 is often used in sports-nutrition beverages, protein bars, icings, desserts, soups, sauces, baked goods, and dairy foods.
According to High Desert research scientist Dr. Brandon Carter, the co-op creates MPC-70 by removing most of the lactose from skim milk and concentrating the proteins via a filtration process that applies pressure to force sugar off protein.
The co-op will yield 36 million pounds of MPC-70 annually in addition to the 68 million pounds of nonfat dry milk it currently produces each year. High Desert's CEO, Randy Robinson, said 60 percent of its MPC-70 is earmarked for Latin America.
Robinson said the new production line, which is part of a 10-year growth plan, became operational in June. Although a cooperative, High Desert recently began contracting milk.
"Finding new sources of milk is a new business model for us as a vertically integrated cooperative," Robinson said. "We currently receive 2.2 million pounds of milk per day, and when our MPC-70 production line goes online our intake capacity will reach 4.7 million pounds per day. We are in a unique position to help other dairymen in the Magic Valley who are struggling to achieve their ambitions."
Robinson said Idaho is a great place to dairy.
"We have dedicated people, the resources, and the room it takes to have a thriving dairy industry in this state," he said. "Our ability to provide the world with safe, nutritious, sustainable, and affordable products is one of our greatest assets."
A half-dozen dairy farm families joined together in 2001 to establish High Desert Milk as a marketing cooperative to secure better pricing. It built a milk powder plant in 2008 and began offering sweet cream in 2008 and butter in 2013.
"The farm-to-table movement and consumer interest in local food sourcing has grown in popularity in the last several decades," Robinson said. "It's important for people to know that High Desert Milk handles everything from the animal feed to the milking parlor to the package. That allows us to control our quality and food safety."
He said demand for dairy foods has spiked during the pandemic.
"When COVID-19 first struck, two things went flying off grocery store shelves: toilet paper and milk," he said. "Milk is an exceptionally nutritious food, and there's no way moms are going to let their kids go without some on their cereal."
Dairy West CEO Karianne Fallow said High Desert Milk has been a leading innovator in the food-production business since its inception.
"High Desert Milk is a leading example of the kind of innovative, growth-oriented companies that prosper in Idaho because it cares about the animals, the people, and the products that make it so successful," she said. "High Desert dairy farmers and employees are passionate in their work because they care about feeding the world with safe and nutritious food."
She said High Desert's current output represents 5 percent of the total milk processed in Idaho.
Dairy West is a regional dairy promotion organization established in 2017 to represent dairy farmers, processors, and supply chain partners in Idaho and Utah. The organization raises awareness of the importance of dairy farming, promotes the health and nutritional benefits of dairy foods, and encourages global demand for Idaho, Utah, and Western U.S. dairy foods through coordinated marketing and communications efforts, nutrition counseling, and research programs.
High Desert Milk employed 105 people prior to the expansion, and expects it will add another 44 jobs with the new MPC-70 production line. This is the second large expansion since the plant was built in 2008. It added an extra 500,000 pounds of butter-making capacity to the existing facility in 2013.