If you’ve been following me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen a few photos of my weekend; a Legendairy adventure my family and I were invited to particpate in … I’ve posted the photos of the Legendairy weekend already, but there’s more to it.
I’ll preface the adventure when a bit of info for you: Legendairy – www.legendairy.com.au – is an initiative of Dairy Australia (the national services body for dairy farmers and the industry, who help farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and achieve a profitable, sustainable dairy industry – I took that directly from the website) and aimed at communicating the stories behind the dairy industry in Australia, the products produced by the industry, the contribution to the Australian economy and, of course, the benefits of dairy products in the diet.
From my perspective, and why I was soooo excited to be a part of it; I am revoltingly and annoyingly passionate about the health and wellbeing of our population. I positively seeth at some of the information I see out there about food and how it relates to health. I could rant on some more, but I won’t.
To be invited to understand more about the initiative, the dairy industry and to help promote positive eating and health was an honour.
(Also, I got to go on a road trip with the kids, and you know how much I love that :D)
So we’re all open about it all, the usual Disclaimer I am encouraged to include in posts like this: I was not paid to go on this adventure, nor was I paid to take the photos, share them on social media or give you this post-adventure rambling. Dairy Australia, with the help of the amazing Porter Novelli Melbourne did, however, cover all my expenses for the weekend, coordinated all the places we visited and organised appropriate accommodation for me/us.
The weekend was pretty much aimed at giving me an insight into the Australian dairy industry – I’m sure it could quite easily have gone for much, much longer and that there is sooooooo much I haven’t got an inkling of, but it was an interesting and informative experience.
An experience which commenced on Friday afternoon, as soon as we got home from school pickups (I may or may not have been packed for two days, because I was so excited!) where we all donned our super cool Legendairy vests, jumped in the car and took off …
A quick stop in Lismore on the way to Warrnambool, to tend to the “I’m hungry”s and the “I need a wee”s, and we eventually arrived in time for a quick bath and bed and much excitement about our accommodation for the evening and much more “Go to bloody bed, NOW!” because we had to be up and ready to go, earlyish the next day.
We did get out on time and, thanks to the maps and my navigator, we made it to Murray Goulburn Cooperative (where they make Devondale and various other dairy products) for a bit of a tour of the site.
All the milk for the products is sourced from farmers from up near where the Murray River meets the Goulburn River (hence the name), locally around Warrnambool, Koroit and around that south-west area of Victoria and as far across as Mount Gambier in South Australia.
Established in 1950 the building we were at was originally constructed in 1965 with bits added over the years in the 1970s/80s and late 1990s.
We were talking litres of milk in the billions – as in during peak season 6 billion litres of milk heads its way out of the plant, and in the down season it is a mere 1.6 billion, give or take. I couldn’t fathom it.
I was also blown away by the sheer number of products in which the milk, or milk products end up in – powered milk and milk sugars (lactose etc) extracted from the milk that end up in energy drinks in the USA, confectionery in Japan, and … well just how many milk products are in so many foods and just how far reaching the products from this ‘little’ plant in Koroit are.
I also learnt about the ‘permeate/permeate free’ myth – fabulous marketing ploy if nothing else!
Most of the plant is automated – lots of robots, which the kids loved – reducing costs and keeping the plant running 7 days. I did meet a few of the guys who work there, heard their stories and how the company invests time and energy not just into the farmers from where their milk comes, but also those who work at the plant. It was nice to hear and the guys seemed really happy. Which makes me happy.
Cheese was tasted, safety gear was donned and we were shown around a few areas of the plant; the dryers and evaporators, where butter is made (sadly, butter was not being made at the time) and the powder packing room. The number of safety requirements, changes of outer clothing from hi-vis vests to coats and shoe coverings, the hand sanitising, the wearing of the ultra glamorous hair nets and the works was reassuring.
Aside from being mindblowingly big and talking numbers you can’t picture in your head, the plant was pretty high tech; loads of pipes and silos and steel thingies all appearing as a diagram on a computer monitor which allowed the operator to see what was going on with each pipe, each silo, each steel thingy – you don’t want to be getting your whole milk mixed up with your skim milk for your latte, let me tell you!
After a brief tour we head off to Cheeseworld in Allansford, where more delicious cheese was tasted (this time from Warrnambool Cheese & Butter – the milk of which is supplied be a different lot of farmers) and we checked out the museum which had some rather old machinery and was vastly, vastly different from the big steel vats and barrels and whirly things of Murray Goulburn Co-op.
I indulged in a much needed latte and the kids tested the famous milkshakes.
Then it was an hour and a half drive, during which we saw many, many cows and were subject to a considerably amount of five-year-old observation of said cows.
“I see a cow do a poo!”
“I see a cow sniff another cow’s butt!”
“I see the cow fart in the other cow’s face!!!!”
[cue maniacal laugh from five-year-old]
We eventually arrive at L’Artisan Organic Cheeses, a little restaurant and couple of sheds in, seemingly, the middle of no where.
Matthieu is the owner and cheesemaker, sourcing his milk from a local farmer and creating the most amazing cheeses. His ‘factory’ works about 3 days a week, mixing the milk, adding the products required to turn it into cheese, mixing it, placing it into moulds and ‘maturing it’.
Safety measures were similar to that which we’d experienced earlier in the day – you head into a room divided by a bench, you remove your shoes, transfer your feet from one side to the other and don some gum boots and a hair net.
(Earlier, it was the same bench, but we had to remove out hi-vis vests and put some shoe covers on before we could place our feet on the other side of the bench and don a lab coat of sorts).
Unlike the million litre silos, these vats for cheesemaking held around 500 litres.
There were fewer areas to cover and we were talking 600kg of cheese, as opposed to 6 billion litres of milk.
The cheese produced was both soft cheese (like camembert and brie) and some semi hard cheeses – all stored and matured on site from approximately 3 months to 9 months (depending on the cheese and time of year) before being shipped off to a distributor in Port Melbourne and distributed further to gourmet and specialist delis across Australia.
We were treated to a tasting of the cheeses as well as a “raclette” of potato and proscuitto’ a devise that kept your boiled spuds warm whilst melting the semi-hard, delicious cheese, which you then poured over your potato and devoured till you were ready to burst!
Amazing and distinctly different in terms of taste and texture from the mass produced cheeses.
Finally, and met by Grumpy Pants who had managed to make it up for the adventure, we hit Timboon and the Railway Distillery Shed, where we met Tim and were supposed to talk a lot more about ice cream but spoke a lot about his distillery and I bought some vodka by accident.
The distillery is on site, and they do make their own ice cream; situated in the market for being a little more gourmet than the mass produced but not quite that highly labour intensive, expensive fine dining dessert. Again, he sources the milk for his ice cream from local dairy farmers and has a small factory in a warehouse not far from the cafe in which he sells it. It is also distributed rather widely around the region.
The kids got a taste and were sent off, with the camera an instructions to take some photos; instead the camera got wet when Godzilla decided to wash Chippie’s ice cream smothered face by squirting the water bottle water at it at close range.
They did declare the ice cream delicious and nicer than shop ice cream.
We did get a Lime & Coconut to take with us … which was really nice!
Off to Colac for our second sleepover, where we were to bed early as our 9.00a.m. start had been moved to 7.00a.m. in order to get a much greater experience …