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PA dairy gets boost as Co-op buys processing plant
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 04/02/2024

Pennsylvania's dairy industry received a welcome boost last month with the arrival of the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative (MDVA). This farmer-owned cooperative, one of the nation's largest, acquired an existing ultra-pasteurization plant in northeast Philadelphia, saving 178 jobs in the process.

This move holds significant promise for the future of Pennsylvania dairy. MDVA plans to more than double the plant's milk processing capacity within two years, potentially creating a wider market for milk from hundreds of Pennsylvania farms. From a consumer standpoint, this could contribute to the long-term viability of local dairy farms.

Pennsylvania dairy has been grappling with stagnant demand for traditional milk and competition from alternative products. Losing a major processing facility to New York last year further highlighted these challenges. However, MDVA sees opportunity in Philadelphia's ultra-pasteurization capabilities.

Ultra-pasteurization extends a product's shelf life significantly compared to traditional pasteurization. This makes it ideal for "value-added" dairy products like whipping cream and fitness drinks – areas where dairies have witnessed growth. Importantly, these products still qualify as Grade A milk, fetching farmers the best prices.

MDVA previously relied on co-packing facilities for ultra-pasteurized products like their Maola brand. Owning their own production lines grants them greater control and the ability to scale up production to meet growing demand for these products. Increased production, coupled with geographic proximity, will also aid in expanding Maola's presence in stores across the region.

Financial details regarding the Philadelphia plant purchase remain confidential due to a non-disclosure agreement with the seller, HP Hood. However, the potential benefits for Pennsylvania's dairy industry are undeniable. This move signifies a renewed commitment to supporting local farms and creating a more sustainable future for the state's dairy sector.

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