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Falcon Foods offers hands-on experience

December 11, 2008

The UW-River Falls Falcon Foods store sells food produced at the plant in the Ag Science building, while offering students involved experience in food production.

The food plant has been operating since 1984 and aims to give students hands-on experience working in a commercial plant setting. The food manufactured by the plant includes meat products, such as snack sticks and summer sausage, various flavors of ice cream and several varieties of cheese.

“It’s great working here. The hands-on learning is a great way to learn how to make cheese,” Student Manager Josh Burgan said.

UWRF students may have actually tasted the food without even knowing it. In the dining hall all shredded cheese, bratwurst and ice cream other than soft serve is actually made in the food plant.

One of the most recent successes of the food plant was the creation of a new variety of cheese called Cobblestone Red which was developed entirely by UWRF students and staff.

Ranee May, the professor responsible for overseeing plant operations, issued a challenge in 2006 to develop the new product as part of their curriculum. The cheese debuted at the World Dairy Expo in Madison and sold out before the last day. It has been well received, according to May, and has even been featured in a handful of publications.

Cobblestone Red is an American type of cheese with wine added for flavor. 

The cheese was meant to be representative of the St. Croix Valley. To that end, all ingredients are from the area, with milk coming from the UWRF Dairy Learning Center and the wine, Chateau Rouge, being a specialty blend from Chateau St. Croix Winery and Vineyard.

Students have already begun development of another new product.

May said that this time the product is going to be a fermented base and the end result will be like a spread, not unlike cream cheese.

Despite the overall success of the Falcon Foods store and plant, May wishes the student body was more aware of its existence.

“A lot of students don’t realize that it’s there for their benefit,” May said.

The plant is largely self-sustaining with all profits made being used to keep the plant supplied and running as well as to support classes. Falcon Foods is located in room 149 in the Food Science Addition and is currently selling gift boxes in anticipation of the holiday season.