A state-of-the-art milk dehydrating plant will begin construction in June on Turlock’s western edge, built to turn locally produced milk into protein powder bound for U.S. sports drinks and food supplements around the Pacific Rim.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday drew family and area officials to the Valley Milk property, now a dirt lot on Washington Road just north of West Main Street. Construction is expected to be completed by December 2017. At full production, the plant is expected to employ 55 people and process 2.5 million pounds of milk per day.
That poundage is 85 to 95 percent water, which will be recycled for plant use and cut its water draw from city pipes by an estimated 87 percent.
“This is going to be an excellent plant. We’re going to be bringing wholesome, fresh milk from the Central Valley. This is all about being local,” said Patti Smith, Valley Milk CEO.
Five longtime dairy farm families, stretching from Manteca to Chowchilla, joined with consultants Progressive Dairy Solutions to build the plant, said Valley Milk Chairman Don Machado. The families were represented by Machado, Henry Te Velde, John Vander Schaaf, Rocky deJager and Bob Kelley.
A commitment to quality and shared values brought Te Velde to the collaboration, he said Friday, as well as a strong business model.
“What drew my family was to be a part of a vertically integrated business. We grow our feed. We have the cattle. Now we’ll be making the products,” said Te Velde, whose dairy operation is in Delhi.
Only 14 percent of milk ends up being poured on cereal or used for dunking cookies, he said. The rest becomes ice cream, cheese, yogurt or other dairy products – including a growing market for protein powder.
The powder is used primarily in fitness drinks in this country. A rising global demand for the powder as a nutritional supplement also played into the plant’s placement in Turlock, within easy driving distance of the Port of Oakland, speakers said.