Leprino welcomes Greeley Chamber Ag Tour, officials speak of current production and future expansion
With miles of stainless steel pipes running overhead and countless machines constantly whirring, the Leprino cheese factory in east Greeley puts out about 5 million pounds of mozzarella cheese per day.
The Greeley Leprino factory welcomed the Greeley Chamber of Commerce’s annual Ag Tour on Aug. 28 to check out the facility.
Leprino, the biggest producer of mozzarella cheese in the world, started the process of building the Greeley factory in 2009. The facility’s Phase One, which included nonfat cheese production, was operational in November 2011. Phase Two, which was the cheese and whey line, came along in March 2013.
The Greeley factory already employs more than 420 workers, and there are plans for yet another expansion of its 1-million-square-foot facility.
Phase Three still is in the planning stages, though.
“We are committed to building and running a third phase,” said Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs. “We’re in the process of determining timing of when we would embark on that.”
Reidy said he doesn’t know what the addition would produce, but he is hopeful that Greeley’s dairy industry can support it.
It would require the milk production from 30,000 to 60,000 cows.
“We remain very confident in the dairy farming community in northeastern Colorado,” Reidy said.
Steve Fritzler, plant manager, said company managers chose Greeley for that very reason.
“We go where the milk is,” Fritzler said. “It gets back to that strategic alliance we have with our dairy farmers.”
The cheese factory requires the milk of about 80,000 dairy cows every day. All of the milk comes from within a 60-mile radius of the factory, which is mostly in Weld County, and is used within 24 hours of milking.
There has been a large increase in the dairy industry in Weld and northeastern Colorado since the factory opened.
The greatest percentage of milk production gain in the United States the past five years was in Weld, with an increase of nearly 84 percent, according to Dairy Today, a dairy information publication.
This past year, Weld was among the top 12 counties in the United States for milk production, and those 12 counties were responsible for 25 percent of the nation’s milk in 2014.
Cindy French, Western Dairy Association president, said earlier this month each dairy cow provides about $23,000 in economic impact annually.
At Leprino, it requires about six hours to take the milk from delivery to cheese, Leprino officials said.
The cheese producing giant uses all the pieces of the cheese, including the whey, which is what comes off the cheese in production.
The process is nearly fully automated, and is almost all done within the stainless steel pipes and machines.
First it comes in as milk, and is brought into the first process, where it is separated and heated.
Then it goes through stretching, cooling and brining, before it is cut and shipped to producers around the world.
The cheese is shipped in large blocks. When it is delivered, the producers will cut, shred or package it with their own name on it, which is why the Leprino name isn’t seen in the grocery store.
The factory supplies a large spectrum of cheese users. It is the supplier for many of the top 10 frozen entrée and pizza market leaders. It also supplies the top retail brands for string and shredded cheeses, the top pizza chains in the world and the majority of the top 10 frozen snack and appetizer market leaders. Because of the varying uses, Leprino holds more than 50 patents for different varieties of mozzarella.
“I guarantee if you’re buying shredded mozzarella anywhere near, you’re buying our cheese,” Fritzler said.
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