Sunday, 26 February 2017
November / December 2013
Have a Cow
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Worth a Closer Look

Dairy Science

Dairy Bar

The long-awaited dairy processing plant opens for business

It's important to understand that our primary mission is not making ice cream for the campus," says Jason Huck, general manager of Cornell's dairy processing plant. "It's supporting teaching, research, and extension."

Huck, MS '06, seems like an honest sort of fellow. So it's entirely possible that he means what he says—even if legions of cone-loving Cornellians would respectfully disagree.

Milk money:The $106 million renovation of Stocking Hall includes (clockwise from facing page) a high-tech dairy plant

For the past two and a half years, Huck has had the unenviable job of explaining why Cornell Dairy fans have had to live without their beloved butter pecan, mint chip, Sticky Bunz, and Cornellia's Dark Secret—but on the bright side, he's been establishing a state-of-the-art dairy processing operation. As part of its $106 million overhaul of Stocking Hall, CALS demolished the old plant (in operation since 1923) and built a gleaming new facility. With a long glass wall facing Tower Road—it glows bright cobalt by night—the new, computer-controlled plant offers multiple vantage points for the lactically curious. While the plant itself is off-limits to the public for food safety reasons, a viewing gallery looks down on the main floor, home to giant steel tanks, filling machines, a pasteurizer, a homogenizer, and other gleaming equipment. "Once we get running, it'll be a little like a reality TV show about dairy processing," Huck says. "We'll be on display all the time."

The 12,000-square-foot plant also includes a dry-storage room redolent with the aroma of 2,500 pounds of cocoa powder—and if you've ever wondered what 22,000 pounds of sugar looks like, here's your answer. There's a dedicated yogurt room; a "batching room" with a 200-gallon industrial blender; a Willa Wonka-style conveyor belt that takes jugs, cartons, and tubs on two-story thrill rides, from empty to full to chilled. A room-sized blast freezer prevents the formation of ice crystals by bringing finished ice cream down to an Arctic minus-35 degrees.

Left: Lounge area with a view of Tower Road. Right: Bottle sculpture advertising the Dairy Store

Construction on the plant was completed early this fall—work on other parts of Stocking Hall will continue into 2014—and since then Huck and his staff have given the facility a thorough cleaning, tested the equipment, and ramped up production. By the end of the semester, University-made products like chocolate milk, yogurt, cider, and—yes—ice cream will have returned to the shelves of the renovated Dairy Store, now under the aegis of Cornell Dining.

Just say Moo: Mascot Cornellia (left), under lock and key. Right: The new Dairy Store, now run by Cornell Dining.

Eventually, fiberglass mascots Cornell­ia and Cal will go back on display. Past victims of cow-napping, they will reside in what Huck cagily describes as a "secure area." But even without them, the new plant and store are cheerily cow-themed, with large black and white spots figuring prominently into the décor. And look closely: if you stare at them just right, you'll find a hidden herd of bovine faces.

— Beth Saulnier

Comments (7)Add Comment
written by Bryan Williamson, November 05, 2013
Yes! It has been way too long since we've had our Cornell ice cream!
written by Adrian Robert, November 05, 2013
I'm all in favor of modern processing operations, but the new store looks a little sterile, when compared with the warm, rustic surrounds of the old one.
written by Ron Furry, November 05, 2013
Where is the back-up generator?
written by paul brener, November 05, 2013
I hope they will include many fat free dairy products!
written by Wayne Brewer, November 05, 2013
The dairy bar was our breakroom for morning coffee between classes. Coffee was 10 cent a cup. I pulled a joke on a classmate and friend, the late Frank Sacora. He gave me five dollars and told me to buy coffee for everyone at the dairy bar. When he showed up and asked for his change; I informed him that there wasn't any. I explained to him that he told me to buy for everyone and I did, buying 50 cups of coffee! He never gave me money nor asked me to buy for him again.
written by Joe Mathis, November 05, 2013
My wife and I visited this past May at my 55th reunion. What a change and imporvement from the 1950's. Oh for a chance to be a student again! Then again, I would need a lot of catching up to do.

Best wishes to those lucky students of today!
1978, 1982
written by Anna Schoettle, November 07, 2013
My husband and I met for the first time in the dairy bar over lunch back in 1980 - we have been together ever since. Never underestimate the power of dairy!

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