April 30, 2012

Cornell Big Red Cheddar to go on sale in fall

Rob Ralyea
Robyn Wishna
Rob Ralyea, dairy extension specialist, shows off rounds of the new Cornell Big Red Cheddar.

This fall, there will be a new big cheese on campus. Cornell Big Red Cheddar is slated to hit campus eateries and the shelves of The Cornell Store in November.

Cornell Big Red is actually white: a six-month-aged mild cheddar to be packaged in bright red one- and two-pound wheels and sold online and in campus retail outlets such as Cornell Orchards.

It was unveiled at a tasting event April 24 at Morrison Hall, where 30 people sampled three potential formulations and voted on their favorite.

The cheeses were developed by dairy extension specialist Rob Ralyea with the help of Brian Bailey, master cheese maker at Yancey's Fancy cheese company, and Howard Van Buren of Chr. Hansen, an international company that develops natural ingredients for the food, pharmaceutical, nutritional and agricultural industries.

Their formulations combined tried and proven bacterial cultures with a new one, according to Van Buren.

"We took one that is a little bit wild, that pushed the limit," he said. "I think we are in for a really great treat today."

A clear winner emerged from the taste test and will soon go into production, Ralyea said.

The cheese will be marketed mainly to Cornell's 300,000 alumni, students, faculty and staff, but Cornell Dining and Cornell Catering are also expected to be large wholesale customers. They currently use about 2,400 pounds of mild cheddar per year.

May Chinavanichkit, a Master of Professional Studies student who helped develop a business plan for the product, said she anticipates about 4,200 pounds of cheese to be sold the first year alone.

Her work will be shared with other aspiring cheese producers as an extension tool and business model.

"Cornell Big Red Cheddar represents not only a great new product to come out of Cornell Dairy, but also our expanded efforts to support the New York dairy industry and its emerging entrepreneurs in cheese, yogurt and other fermented products," said Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who was among those who tested the cheeses.

"It seems like there has been a rebirth in the state for dairy, and it's a great time to be in this industry. We have really good milk, we have good students, we have good support, we have good products," added Bailey. "I'm really excited about what's going on at Cornell, and I'm glad to be a small part of it."

Jason Huck of Cornell Dairy gave the group an update on renovations at Stocking Hall. He said the dairy plant is on track for a December opening, with ice cream and milk production resuming in January.

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.