NMPF Cheese Contest: A Tradition of Excellence

NMPF’s annual cheese contest, held in conjunction with its annual meeting, has evolved from a quality-improvement initiative to a showcase of some of the world’s top cheeses, as produced by NMPF member cooperatives. RFD-TV goes behind the scenes to talk with cheese judges, contest coordinators and winners to show how the contest — which now features other dairy products — encourages the best in NMPF co-ops, and the best in cheesemaking as well.

Ellsworth Wins Top Cheese Prize; Scholarship Program Raises $12,000

Ellsworth took the top prize, while a yogurt also took high honors in the first-ever inclusion of that category, in prizes awarded in the annual dairy contest held in conjunction with NMPF’s annual meeting.

The NMPF Chairman’s Award went to Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery for their Pepperoni with Marinara Rub cheese, which achieved a 99.8 score. Agri-Mark received the Chairman’s Reserve Award for its 10% Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt, which also won the award for best yogurt. Tillamook County Creamery Association earned the Best Cheddar award for its 2012 Makers Reserve, while Foremost Farms won the best Italian Cheese for its Mozzarella, and Prairie Farms won the Best Cottage Cheese competition as well as the most overall ribbons, with 18.

Some of the other highlights of this year’s meeting at the Gaylord Rockies hotel included:

  • The NMPF Town Hall meeting Tuesday morning, which provided an interactive session with the organization’s staff to explain key policy issues;
  • A look at the current consumer, dairy and retail market landscape from John Crawford of IRI;
  • A presentation from CoBank CEO Tom Halverson about the economic outlook for U.S. agriculture in 2023;
  • An on-stage sustainability podcast with NMPF staff and industry experts;
  • Discussions of current domestic and international sales and strategies for future success;
  • An exploration of nutrition issues and efforts related to various childhood cohorts – from pre-natal to infants to school-aged youths;
  • A forecast on the November elections from The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman.
  • NMPF and dairy industry organizations promoted next year’s hosting of the IDF World Dairy Summit in Chicago, part of an industry focus on food security over the coming year. The summit was also promoted at a panel held Oct. 20 in Des Moines, Iowa as part of the annual World Food Prize conference.
  • The NMPF National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program raised more than $12,000 through its annual raffle and fundraising efforts. The scholarship program supports graduate students enrolled in Master’s or doctoral programs who are actively pursuing dairy-related fields of research that directly benefit milk marketing cooperatives and the U.S. dairy industry at large.

Next year’s NMPF meeting will be held November 12-15 at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando, FL.

Agri-Mark Tops 2021 Cheese Contest

Agri-Mark received the Chairman’s Award for the Grand Champion cheese with its Extra Sharp Cheddar made in Middlebury, Vermont by the Middlebury Team on Nov. 15 at NMPF’s Annual Meeting, citing its outstanding flavor profile as part of what set it apart from the other 180 entries submitted by 12 cooperatives.

“When I grade cheese in a certain category, I look for a cheese to stand out and meet the characteristics of that category,” said contest judge Dr. Marianne Smukowski. “The cheese that won the extra sharp cheddar did just that. The flavor and texture of that cheese was fantastic. It was one of the best cheeses I ever graded.”

NMPF also gave out a Reserve Chairman’s Award to recognize a cheese that was almost as good as the Chairman’s cheese. This award, which was started last year, was awarded to Associated Milk Producers Inc. for its Pasteurized Processed American and Monterey Jack Cheese with Red Bell and Jalapeno Peppers made in Portage, Wisconsin by AMPI’s Dinner Bell Creamery.

NMPF’s cheese contest provides cooperative members an opportunity to showcase their best cheeses. In total, judges compared 2,155 pounds of cheese.

Other notable awards include:

  • Best Cottage Cheese, going to Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc. for its 4% Pineapple flavored cottage cheese made in Buffalo, NY by Bison; and
  • Best Italian going to the Associated Milk Producers Inc. for its Aged Parmesan Wheel made in Hoven, South Dakota by the AMPI team.

NMPF would like to extend a large thank you to their cheese judges, Ms. Allison Reynolds, USDA, Dairy Grading Branch, Turlock, California; Mr. Timothy Meyers, College of DuPage, Glenn Ellyn, Illinois; and Smukowski, University of Wisconsin, Madison – retired and to the cooperatives who entered cheese. For the entire list of award winners, click here.