|Milkco Plant - West Asheville|
|Milk storage silos|
What you mostly hear about the history of MILKCO, the milk processing plant on Deaverview Road in West Asheville, are a terse few sentences that go something like this: "In 1982, after 17 years in fluid milk operation, the Sealtest plant in Asheville was being phased out with others in the Sealtest organization. Robert Ingle, founder of Ingles Markets, purchased the plant and it became a new operation named Milkco, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ingles Markets."
This doesn't really capture how devastating the closure of this milk processing plant would have been to area dairy farmers. Not all supermarkets own their own milk processing plants, and this purchase by Mr. Ingle not only benefited dairy farmers but also the future growth of Ingles Markets.
Currently Milkco occupies 17 acres in West Asheville and employs 260 full-time workers. The first thing you see when you approach Milkco is the gleaming silver silos that hold the milk and a large sign directing trucks for "Raw Milk" delivery.
Did you know?: Raw milk is delivered to Milkco 7 days a week and 365 days per year for processing. Keith Collins, President of Milkco, told me that every day, they get deliveries of milk from 200 dairy farmers.
Did you know?: About 80% of the milk delivered to Milkco is from farms within 150 miles of Asheville. "The reason it's not 100% is because we've lost dairy farmers, it's hard work and sometimes the families decide to get out of the business and the land is sold off to developers." explained Mr. Collins.
Did you know?: Several years ago Milkco began processing organic milk. (At Ingles it bears the Harvest Farm label.)
Initially there were almost no local organic dairy farmers and there are still few local organic dairy operations. About 50% of the organic milk delivered to Milkco comes from these local farmers.
Did you know?: Each week Milkco bottles about 1 million gallons of milk in their 140,000 square foot facility, but it's not only milk that they produce.
|Milkco President, Keith Collins watching computer tracking of milk.|
Did you know?: The milk you buy at another grocery store might also be from Ingles? Milkco also bottles milk and organic milk that sport the labels of many other supermarkets and grocers in the Southeast - not just Laura Lynn or Harvest Farm. Milkco's clients also include hotels, hospitals, universities and food service.
Did you know?: The USDA sets a monthly maximum milk price and then retailers can choose to price their milk at that rate or lower. A low milk price is often called a "loss leader", as Mr. Collins explained this is "...to get customers in the door so they buy other products."
|If antibiotics are detected a food coloring is added to the raw milk and it is returned to the farmer.|
Did you know?: When milk is received at Milkco each load is tested for the presence of antibiotics. If antibiotics are detected in the milk a food coloring is added to the entire shipment so it cannot be sold for human consumption and it is returned to the farmer. Mr. Collins told me that it is very rare that this happens. "Maybe 3 or 4 times a year do we have to send milk back. Considering we receiving thousands of pounds of milk per day and deliveries daily ...it's a very small amount that we ever have a problem with. It ends up costing the farmer so they are very careful about their dairy cows."
Did you know? All dairy farmers that supply Milkco certify that they do not administer artificial growth hormones (rBgh or Rbst) to increase milk
Did you know?: The reason milk is put into opaque containers is to lessen vitamin loss due to UV light.
Did you know?: Milkco pays a monthly premium to farmers to encourage them to supply the best quality milk, Keith Collins emphasized that this is important for farmers and for Milkco, "...if we start with good quality milk we supply good quality milk to our customers."
Did you know?: Ingles stores and districts have a "Snow Plan" that is initiated by our district managers when snow is forecast so extra supplies of milk are immediately sent out to stores.
Did you know? The cardboard boxes for Laura Lynn milk are made from recycled material and that Milkco takes many other measures to reduce their environmental impact. As we walked through the plant Mr. Collins pointed out several pieces of equipment to improve efficiency and reduce the end cost of their products. One he is particularly proud of performs reverse osmosis to capture milk remnants on tanks and reduce liquid waste.
|Reverse osmosis machine to reduce waste water. |