Monday I drove down to Tillamook to tour their factory. I had driven by the place on Sunday (it’s right next to Highway 101) and it was PACKED. I hoped that if I got there when they opened at 8am on a weekday it might not be so bad and I was right. There were probably 20 visitors there when I arrived and that number was considerably higher when I left about an hour later.
This is who greeted me at the front door:
Inside the modern building is an area for buying and consuming food (an upscale cafeteria) and a huge counter to sample and buy many of their delicious ice cream products. There is also a retail area where you may buy the same products of theirs that you’d find in a grocery store (cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc), and of course a gift shop with hats, t-shirts, etc.
After using the restroom I was directed to go upstairs for the self-guided tour.
Once upstairs I could look down at most of the assembly-lines in various stages of cheese production. On the left was the processing of incoming raw milk from local dairies to the shrink-wrapped, 40 pound blocks which are then put in a cooler to age. There were lots of signs explaining each step and stating other facts and trivia about what they do and how they do it.
It takes 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese. They use only 4 ingredients to make their cheese. It takes 2 hours to convert the incoming milk to useable curds & whey. The curds become cheese and the whey, which was discarded years ago, is now processed down to sweet whey powder which is used in baby formula, protein drinks and energy bars. The 40 pound blocks are sent to a cooler to age – for various amounts of time depending on what the final product is. They currently store 1.35 million pounds of cheese at a constant 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the right were windows looking down on a robot which opened the shrink-wrapped blocks which had been retrieved out of cold storage and converting them to the packages, in various shapes and sizes, which we buy in the store.
The “blue octopus” re-shrink-wraps the final products for boxing and shipping.
A very efficient and time-tested (over 100 years) process. The building was originally built in 1949 and underwent a major upgrade in 1990. They are constantly improving the technology.
Their logo is a ship, which is part of the company history. Years ago it took too long to get the product out to market over land so they used a wooden ship to take it to Portland. A replica of the “Morning Star” sit out front of the factory:
And of course, before I could leave I had to buy some of their ice cream:
I chose Mountain Huckleberry (at 9am). It was YUMMY!
After I visited other things in the area I drive by the factory again and it was once again, PACKED. I was glad I was only staying a short distance away and had gotten there early.