Farm Beat: Modesto’s Crystal Creamery steps up environmental efforts

08/15/2014 11:38 AM

08/15/2014 10:53 PM

Crystal Creamery served mint chip ice cream, fittingly enough, at a gathering that celebrated its efforts to go green.

The company, formerly known as Foster Farms Dairy, has sharply reduced its solid waste output and is conserving water and energy. It has been certified by the Stanislaus Green Team, a program of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce that shows how caring for the planet can go hand in hand with profit.

The honor was presented this week at the headquarters plant on Kansas Avenue, where about 350 of Crystal’s 865 employees work. They handle about 100 million gallons of milk per year, turning out fluid products, butter, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, powdered milk and other items.

Crystal produces some of its own power with solar panels. It has cut its landfill waste by 95 percent, in part through increased recycling of cardboard, plastic and other materials.

Sludge left from milk processing is trucked to Fiscalini Cheese Co., near Salida, where it is added to a system that uses bacteria to turn manure into methane for power generation. The whey from cottage cheese production is mixed into feed for dairy cows on Crystal’s own farms.

The company has found ways to avoid disposing of products returned unsold by stores. They are passed on to food banks if they have not reached the expiration date. Milk hitting the use-by date becomes part of the feed at a hog farm.

Tiffany Abend, corporate sustainability manager at Crystal, said it is a “grass to glass” initiative involving the dairy farms, plant and truck fleet.

“I think I have the best job in the company, other than the ice cream testers,” she said. “My motto is ‘Save money and save the Earth.’ ”

The business was founded by Max and Verda Foster in 1941, two years after they started the separate Foster Farms poultry company. The switch to the Crystal brand followed the 2007 purchase of a Sacramento processor by that name.

The chamber program visits businesses looking to improve their resource management and certifies those that meet standards. Along with Crystal, the honor has gone to Boyd Corp., which makes metal, rubber and other products; Frito-Lay Inc., a snack producer; Gianelli & Associates, a law firm; and Nestlé USA, which makes evaporated milk.

“The Green Team has a basic mission,” Chairman Linden Coffee of American Recycling said. “We want to lower the cost of doing business through environmental responsibility.”

For more information on the Stanislaus Green Team, go to www.stanislausgreenteam.com or call (209) 577-5757, ext. 103.

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