Friday, February 20, 2015

AE Dairy - Passion for Quality

Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet these two, along with many others, as I participated in an Anderson Erickson Dairy immersion day, since I am a 2015 AE Dairy Blog Ambassador!  I had a great time learning about the dairy's history, going on a tour and participating in a taste test.

I started the day off by having breakfast with Miriam Erickson Brown, President and CEO of AE Dairy, and Kim Peter, Director of Marketing.  There was of course plenty of AE products to choose from and I opted for some chocolate milk and a piece of buttermilk streusel coffee cake.  I loved hearing Miriam's passion for dairy as she shared her family's dairy's story.  Her grandfather, Iver Erickson, and friend William "Andy" Anderson, bought a dairy for $15,000 and started AE Dairy in 1930.  At that time there were around 150 dairies in Des Moines, so after awhile the dairy decided to concentrate on specific dairy products - milks, cottage cheese and sour cream.  Andy Anderson was interested in butter, so he decided to go off on his own several years later to Minnesota and sold his shares of the company to Iver.  In the 60's Miriam's Dad, Jim got involved with the dairy and helped develop the company's yogurt line.  Yogurt was only found in health markets at that time, and Jim helped bring yogurt to grocery stores.  Today, Jim is the Chairman of the AE Dairy Board, Miriam is the President and CEO and her brother Warren is the COO and CFO.

After breakfast Miriam and Kim introduced me to John Just, Quality Assurance and Research Director, who led all of us on a tour of the 22 acre dairy.  This is where I learned about the over 25 lab and sensory tests done at various stages of the dairy products - from the initial stage of raw milk straight from the tanker truck, to tests ran on samples after the pasteurization and homogenization processes (like seen in the photo above and thanks to Annie for posing for me), to even tests ran after products reach their sell-by date.  Right now they said that over 99% of their production meets the end-of-code date.

One test I was lucky to participate in yesterday was their weekly taste test - a tradition since AE Dairy began.  Every Thursday at 11 a.m. members of AE's research, sales and leadership teams come together to test the previous weeks' production and to judge its taste, smell, texture and appearance.  It was fun talking with everyone around the table as they talked about new flavors (by the way, check out their new Hot Jalapeno Mexican Style Dip), product ideas in the pipeline and products that flopped.  It was also a great chance to try some products I probably would have never bought myself.  Before yesterday I thought I only liked Greek Yogurt in a tzatziki sauce on top of a gyro.  But now, I'm going to have to start buying some of AE Dairy's Greek Yogurts to keep stocked in our refrigerator.  I think my favorite was the Almond Creme flavor.

As a farmer, I found it really interesting to talk to members of the AE Dairy team about questions they receive from customers about animal treatment, to raw milk, to hormones in milk.  I may not be a dairy farmer, but as a livestock farmer, we all have concern and care for our animals.  As a Mom, I love the versatility of dairy, along with its great health benefits.  I know between drinking a glass of milk, to incorporating cheese into a sauce, to having cottage cheese as a snack - that my family has dairy at every meal of the day.

Miriam Erickson Brown, AE Dairy President/CEO on the dairy tour
I could keep going on and on, but I'll stop for today.  But I'll keep sharing about AE Dairy's story and their recipes throughout the rest of the year.  What is your favorite dairy product?  What dairy product do you enjoy cooking and baking with the most?  I'll be sure to keep your favorites in mind for future recipe posts!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

And, if you are a AE Dairy fan who grew up enjoying AE products and moved away, or if you got a taste from a friend or family member and fell in love from a distance, you need to apply for AE Dairy's long-distance fans contest for your chance at a special prize pack full of AE Dairy items shipped to you!  You can apply yourself or you can nominate someone you know who would love a taste from "back home".

5 comments:

  1. Awesome, Val! I have a whole bunch of AE Vanilla Greek Yogurt in my fridge right now! I use it in smoothies and put a dollop (or 3) on top of my oatmeal.

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    1. That is great to hear Katie! My fridge always has AE milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese and sour cream in it.

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  2. I love this opportunity for you and AE products! I can't wait to hear more about their company and products as well as learn new recipes!

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    1. Thanks Katy! You should check out the link for the coffee cake. Buttermilk always makes cakes so good!

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  3. Very cool!! I went to school with Miriam!!!!!

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