The Meister-family cheesemaking tradition began as long ago as 1916, when our grandfather began making cheese in Southwestern Wisconsin. Our father moved the Meister Cheese Company to Muscoda in 1966, over 40 years ago.
A large part of our dad’s legacy is Muscoda Protein Products. He was the first in Southwestern Wisconsin to see the potential for processing “waste” whey into protein and lactose. In this sense alone, our father was a most extraordinary dairy entrepreneur in a state filled with the best of them.
In 1990, the three of us—Mike, Scott, and Vicki—became the third generation to run our family’s business. Soon thereafter, we committed ourselves to making the Meister Cheese Company a premier manufacturer of “gourmet quality” specialty cheeses.
Our idea was simple. We would leverage the skills of our loyal, longtime cheesemakers by providing them the most advanced technologies available to their Old World trade. Thus we could create specialty cheeses that evoke artisanal quality, yet produce them in quantities that ensure a reliable supply for our business partners.
The results of this commitment have exceeded our wildest expectations. If we have only one regret, it’s only that our father can’t see what we made of his legacy today.
We’ve received a lot of welcomed attention in Wisconsin for environmental stewardship; but to be honest, that wasn’t our ultimate goal. Instead, we call it “logical environmentalism.” Science shows us that doing things the most eco-friendly way is oftentimes the most efficient way and therefore the most cost-effective way. This has certainly been the case for us. And the benefits to us—and ultimately our customers—have been manifold.
Our neighbor’s woodchips.
Fuel is a major cost for any business. Our family businesses—Meister Cheese Company and Muscoda Protein Products—are very energy intense, requiring lots of steam.
Our neighbor in Muscoda’s industrial park is a sawyer of hardwood timber. Their byproduct of sawing dimensional lumber is rounded slabs of wood left over from squaring up the log. Previously, the only market for this leftover wood was over 200 miles away at a papermill. We looked at this as an opportunity to use their natural, renewable byproduct as a fuel source to displace our purchases of fossil fuels.
A rediscovered technology.
You can read about our high-efficiency CleanTech wood-burning technology elsewhere on our website. But in brief, it’s a very high-tech extension of the 19th-century Bessemer steel-making process you learned about in grade school.
Lots of oxygen is pumped into the wood furnace to create intense heat—about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. But nowadays, sophisticated digital controls constantly monitor and adjust fan speeds, moisture levels, and dozens of other parameters so that the woodchips almost completely vaporize into heat energy. And what do we mean by “almost?”
We burn about 27 tons of woodchips a day to power our two factories, yet produce only 100 pounds of flyash per day, which is captured and recycled. Thus, for the most businesslike reasons, we’ve converted to a highly eco-friendly energy source that greatly reduces the cost of our own energy and, ultimately, let’s us offer the most competitive prices to our business partners.
What’s more, we’ve not only removed a cost and solved a disposal problem for our neighbors, they no longer have to burn prodigious amounts of diesel fuel trucking woodchips hundreds of miles weekly to Northern Wisconsin—yet another unintended but welcomed environmental benefit.