Car Parts to Dry Milk and Cream – A Journey in Coopersville, MI

by | Sep 29, 2015

I had the good fortune of participating in a tour of the Continental Dairy facilities in Coopersville, MI this past Friday. The Medical Mile Resource Group, of which I am a member, was offered a tour of the facilities in conjunction with the Coopersville’s Downtown Development Authority. It was a great opportunity to learn how a facility that used to produce automobile parts for General Motors has been repurposed and expanded to produce dry milk, cream and butter (coming soon). We were welcomed by the team from Continental Dairy and our tour was led by Steve Cooper, the COO/General Manager of the facility.

photo by jonathan mastIt was amazing to see how raw milk, brought in from farms throughout Western Michigan, was unloaded, pumped, dried and packaged (not to mention numerous steps in-between). We were also able to learn a few interesting/amazing facts and statistics:

  • 5.2 Million = pounds of milk processed per day
  • Ferrero Rocher (Chocolates) = Continental Dairy is the only US approved supplier
  • 25,000 Pound of Butter/Hour = the amount of butter to be produced from their new butter plant which is currently under construction ($49 Million)
  • More than $300,000,000 = the amount of money invested in the facility and community
  • 7 Tons/Hour = the amount of dry milk powder produced per hour
  • 3rd Largest in the US = Coopersville is home to the 3rd largest milk dryer in the United States
  • 130 Acres = the size of the site in Coopersville
  • 14 Countries = the number of countries that Continental Dairy exports dry milk to

Continental Dairy partners with more than 92 dairy farmers, and produces over 300,000 lbs. of dry non-fat milk per day, for use as a base ingredient in a number of consumer products including ice cream, cheese, yogurt, whipped cream, pasta sauces and more.

One of the most amazing things to see was Continental Dairy’s commitment to food quality and cleanliness. The facility was much more than clean – it was spotless. The elaborate piping system for the milk ensured quality from the point of entry to the final shipment containers. Seeing how they engineered the facility and getting a glimpse at their process control provided an impressive glimpse of Continental Dairy’s commitment to quality and safety.

One discussion on the tour demonstrated their approach to sustainability as well. It’s a simple question when you think about it . . . what do you do with all of the water that is removed from the milk along the way to creating dry milk? Continental Dairy partnered with the City of Coopersville to create a system that keeps the “milk water” separate from all other waste water. This separation begins at the Continental Dairy plant and continues to Coopersville’s Waste Water treatment facility. By keeping the “milk water” separate they are able to use the “milk water” in other sustainable endeavors such as crop irrigation.

Special thanks to Continental Dairy and to Steve Cooper for welcoming us to your amazing facility and for the time you spent with us sharing your story!

Here are some photos from our tour: