Friday, March 17, 2017

Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese


"As Oregonian as a lumberjack sharing a craft beer with a beaver, no one does cheese like Tillamook." - New Seasons sale flyer

Their packaging says "Thank you for buying Tillamook and keeping our family farms strong."

Since childhood I've been a fan of Tillamook cheese. Molten and gooey inside grilled cheese sandwiches, grated into mac and cheese and melted over just about anything you can think of, its bright orange hue has been a color theme weaving through my life. On trips to the coast my parents would stop the station wagon at the cheese factory to follow the steps that the milk took from liquid to curd to sliced chunks which were finally pressed into logs, aged and dipped in wax (now wrapped in plastic) to be displayed on refrigerated shelves.

"Keeping our family farms strong."

On those same trips my parents would point out the cows munching grass in the brilliant green coastal pastures of Tillamook County, their pendulous udders swaying as they moved to the barns to be milked twice a day. "That's where our cheese comes from!" we'd think.

That's why it is with a heavy heart that I've finally decided to give up Tillamook cheese. It's not because the flavor has somehow fallen off of a cliff, or that I've discovered a better product—their extra sharp white cheddar had become our house cheese after my husband developed an intolerance to lactose. (Lactose is converted to lactic acid by cultures added to the cheese, and the longer it's aged, the less lactose remains.)

So why have I reached this decision?

Tillamook's Columbia River Processing plant in Boardman.

It turns out that only a portion of the milk that is used by the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA)* to make their famous cheeses is produced by those cows munching that rich, coastal grass. Instead, Tillamook has partnered with Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman on the Columbia River, a factory farm that produces around 2 million pounds (that's 233,000 gallons, folks) of milk per day from 30,000 milk cows kept during the entirety of their short lives in confined barns. Add to that another 40,000 animals consisting of calves and "replacement heifers," young females that will be added to the milking herd at two years old.

As for the amount of milk produced in Tillamook County itself, a report from 2014 titled "Tillamook County Community Food Assessment: Growing Healthy Communities on the North Oregon Coast" noted that at that time "the cooperative…gets more than half its milk from outside Tillamook County and does a portion [of its] other cheese making and distribution from Boardman, Oregon."

Dairy cow standing in waste water at Threemile Canyon Farms.

An article in the Tillamook Headlight Herald from 2012, announcing layoffs of 50 employees doing packaging at the Tillamook processing facility—outsourced to companies in Utah and Idaho—quoted then-TCCA CEO Joe Rocha as saying that "all ice cream is made in Tillamook. Other Tillamook brand products, such as yogurt, butter and sour cream, are licensed products produced by other companies. All local milk is processed in Tillamook."

Tillamook has also built a large cheese processing facility, Columbia River Processing, near Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman that was designed to produce 58 million pounds of cheese a year at full operation. In 2014 it built a 64,000-square-foot expansion project to process whey, which is used in products like infant formula, performance nutrition products and products that "help manage some of the impacts of aging."

Open, manure-filled dairy lagoon is roughly 20 acres in size.

According to an article in the East Oregonian, the system is a "closed loop" where the milk cows "are loaded onto slowly rotating carousels where their udders are sprayed with a disinfectant and attached to automatic pumps. Each spin lasts just a few minutes before the cows are unloaded back where they started." The rest of the loop is made of the waste from the 70,000 animals—estimates are around 436 million gallons of liquid manure every year—that go into digesters and open lagoons that is then spread on fields of grain corn and triticale which is used to feed the cows or is made into animal bedding.

The manure spread on the fields is supposed to be carefully managed to avoid having the runoff pollute area groundwater, but an article on another proposed mega-dairy in the area, Lost Valley Ranch, reports that it would add an additional 30,000 dairy cows and their waste to the already beleaguered groundwater system in the county. "The area is home to the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, where the level of nitrates in the groundwater already exceeds the federal safe drinking water standard," the article notes.

Treated manure is sprayed directly on organic crops.

There are also concerns about air pollution, and groups like the Center for Food Safety, Friends of Family Farmers and the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project are pushing for new rules to regulate air contaminant emissions (SB197) from large dairy operations. In 2007, Oregon exempted large-scale livestock operations from air-quality oversight, even though elevated concentrations of ammonia from Threemile Canyon Farms have been linked to acid deposits in the Columbia River Gorge, and nitrogen compounds are contributing to elevated levels of ozone in the vicinity of these operations.

The nail in the coffin was driven in, for me, when I started to look into what these mega-dairies were doing to Oregon's small, family-owned dairy farms. As Jon Bansen, a third-generation dairyman who is hoping to someday turn his farm over to his son, wrote in an editorial in the Salem Statesman-Journal, "when the last mega-dairy, Threemile Canyon Farms, came into Oregon, an average of nine family dairy farms went out of business per month between 2002 and 2007. Mega-dairies flood the market with milk, driving down milk prices and making it increasingly difficult for family farmers to stay afloat."

Each barn (in white) is roughly a quarter-mile long.

Mega-dairies also degrade the lives of local communities. Bansen goes on to say that "the ways in which family dairy farmers and mega-dairies contribute to a community are drastically different. When something breaks, family farmers typically buy parts from the local store. When their animals need veterinary attention, they call the local vet. They support their feed stores, tractor-supply stores and more. After a hard day on the farm, family farmers often engage in their community, schools, civic groups and churches." Employees at mega-dairies have neither the time nor the money to spend in their communities; equipment is bought from the cheapest (mostly non-local) sources; and profits are sent off to corporate, often out-of-state, offices.

So for all of these reasons I'm looking for a new, delicious source for my cheese, and I'll try to buy from small cheesemakers who source their milk from small, family farms. It'll no doubt be more expensive than the cheap-for-a-reason stuff, but I'm willing to spend a little more and use a little less if it helps to support local families and communities.

The Tillamook slogan is "Dairy Done Right." I disagree. How about you?

* I contacted the Tillamook County Creamery Association Consumer Relations department and was told they could not comment on the facts referenced in this post because "production numbers like the kind you are seeking are not figures that we generally share with the public."

Photos of cow barn and manure lagoon from Friends of Family Farmers. Photo of sprinklers from Threemile Canyon Farms website. Aerial photo from Google maps.

123 comments:

Alison said...

When I moved out of Oregon to Colorado, I was surprised to see Tillamook cheese available. I was happy because I loved it, but it did make me realize how big the company must be. And then when I left Colorado for the East coast, I was surprised to see my local Colorado yogurt, Noosa, for sale everywhere. I eat Cabot extra sharp now but could probably make a better choice.

Kathleen Bauer said...

It's a problem when a company scales up…something has to change, and how does that happen? In this case, it seems like Tillamook went with the industrial model. Other companies, Organic Valley for instance, have chosen a different model. Others have chosen to stay small and grow in a limited way.

Liz Delmatoff said...

No more Tillamook. I love it, but this isn't OK.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Liz. I reached the same conclusion, alas. Keep me posted on what you decide to do!

Chris Angelus said...

Thanks for that information. Too bad the quest for more and more green leads to lower quality and sucks it away from hard working family farmers.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I really can't speak about the quality of the product, but I know I can't in good conscience buy their product knowing I'm supporting a mega-dairy like Threemile Canyon.

Tom Gibson said...

Do Keebler Elves make your cookies?

Maybe Oompa Loompas make your chocolate bar.

This is a silly complaint. Naive, even. Grow up and see the world for what it is.

Tillamook Cheese is a quality standard.

Does Tillamook Country Smoker use Tillamook county beef? At all?

Butthurt foolishness. That's all this is.

Vegannie said...

I gave up all cheese and dairy products at the age of 70. All dairy cows suffer whether on green grass or no. They are force impregnated every year to keep up the milk supply. the babies are torn away from their mother just after birth while mother an babe scream for each other. the male calves are killed. Often they are left to starve or die of thirst. It is horrific.The mothers are killed after only 2-5 years because the milk supply dwindles as their bodies wear out and their health deteriorates. . their natural life expectancy is up to 25 years. Cows are bred with udder capacity so gigantic now that is painful for them to drag it around with them. There are plenty of delicious cruelty free plant based milks available instead. If you drink milk or eat dairy products you are responsible for this cruelty.

Anonymous said...

I worked almost 9 years in packaging and was laid off in 2012..i was making $18 hour and they cut my pay to $15.50 and was going to lower it to $12 a hour to force me out....CRP cheese doesnt taste the same as tillamook due to different climate and feed fed to the cows..i sampled the cheese all day i worked there so i know my cheese..also Bandon cheese is done at tillamook and CRP read the label next time your in the store says tillamook on it..

Anonymous said...

Sad to see the mega dairies force the family farms out of business...I had an uncle who ran his own farm and some of my fondest memories were growing up around him and going out to visit the newborn calfskin and watching him milk his herd....the next generation will never be able to have such a wonderful exerience...!

Karen Lee said...

Shameful.

Chriss Pagani said...

We haven't even touched on their ad campaign "Not owners, farmers" - or some lie like that. Seriously, TV stations need to stop accepting those ads because it's false advertising.

The story doesn't even cover how they've been a polluter in Tillamook. Or how they sue anyone using the name Tillamook in their products For instance, they went after the Tillamook Country Smoker (sells jerky and other meat products, made locally) for using the name. Dragged it through court for years, cost the owner of that company millions, eventually lost. But they'll still go after anyone because, according to them, they own the name Tillamook.

Honestly, they're just a bad, bad company. And their faux farmer act needs to end.

Anonymous said...

Milk prices are set by your government.

Regina Benton said...

You had me at "...cows kept during the entirety of their short lives in confined barns."
Unlike these cows, we get to make choices. My choice (thanks to your information Kathleen), is to buy in accordance to what's good for all living creatures. Especially when the lives in question are giving of themselves for human benefit.

#IStandForHappyCows
Thank You

Anonymous said...

Also, the company bought out the Bandon Cheese factory and tore it down, ruining part of the tourist industry there. They also kept the "Bandon" cheese brand. I'll never buy Tillamook.

Anonymous said...

What about the use of rBST in the Tillamook milk. Member/Owner Neil Kaste uses rBST, refer to the Tillamook County Court case. Kaste vs. Land O'Lakes where Neil Kaste admitted he uses the product rBST. Kaste still sends milk to Tillamook Cheese every day along with many others.

Keith said...

Ole Keith. Is about to get on his soap box and go Virgil on these people!!!! "We the people" regulated the small dairy farmer out of business with our demand for safe and affordable dairy products. It wasn't the 🧀 factory. They had to grow or go out of business. That's how it works.

In a few short years, we won't have local telephone companies. We will put them out of business with our need for instant gratification and affordable phone service. Could any of us live without our precious cell phone? People will lose jobs or go work for the corporation. The small company will not be able to keep up with our demands.

Buy and enjoy Tillamook brand Dairy products because it does provide income for Tillamook County..... or....... wein yourself off the teat!!!

That's all I gotta say about that

Ivy said...

Excellent piece. Kudos. Do you ever reply to the trolls like one above?

Anonymous said...

My complaint is "why is tillamook cheese more expensive in tillamook than anywhere else?" Answer me how that makes sense....and I live here...

Anonymous said...

I don't see any trolling here. Having a different point of view and expressing it isn't trolling. Regardless of your point of view on this, I think discussing opposing opinions in an open forum is healthy. We don't want to live in an information vacuum.

Anonymous said...

Tillamook couldn't keep up with the demand or shipping from their original coastal location. They had to expand the operation. If you have no experience raising cattle or running a dairy operation, then don't be too quick to agree with the author. Will continue to buy Tillamook cheese products for my family.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. To reply to a few of those above:

- Anonymous: I can find no record of a "Neil Kaste" in relation to a court case with Land o' Lakes. There is one that dealt with a Neal Kaste (different spelling than you gave) who sued over tainted feed from Land o' Lakes, where his cows were slowly poisoned by bad feed. He was awarded $750,000 in damages after a five-week trial. Link for that case here. If you could provide a link to the case file you referenced, I'll check it.

- Keith: In my comment above I said it's a problem when a company scales up…something has to change, and how does that happen? In this case, it seems like Tillamook went with the industrial model in their partnership with Threemile Canyon Farms. Other companies, Organic Valley for instance, have chosen a different model. Jon Bansen, a farmer Polk County in Oregon, milks 200 cows and grazes and harvests 650 acres of land. He sells most of his milk to Organic Valley and is paid well over market price for it.

- VegAnnie: Some dairy farmers have practices that more-or-less mirror the situation that you refer to (I'm not going to go down your list point by point here). But there are many small farmers who don't, and more are leaving calves with their mothers for longer periods and wean them at an appropriately mature stage. Here's a research paper on that topic that explored various methods of calf-rearing with dairy cows.

- Anonymous: According to the International Dairy Foods Association, under "government dairy programs, the minimum farm milk price is established based on the value of the products made from it." [emphasis mine]

- Tom Gibson: I'm not making a quality judgement about Tillamook's products, just sharing the results of my research on questions I had about their practices. Other folks can decide for themselves based on their own research into the issues, but it's important that people have solid information on which to base those decisions.

- Ivy: I don't mind a little sarcasm, especially if the person signs their name to it. Anonymous, abusive or off-topic rants aren't allowed, and I delete those without posting them, since I moderate all comments here. And so far there haven't been any. Thanks to everyone for that! (BTW, the definition of a "troll" is "a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll's amusement.")

Gary.Oregon.K12 said...

Why be so rude? We all make choices based on our ethics and goals in life. Many are fine with industrial food production while others prefer to support local economies. Lighten up dude!

Paula said...

So what cheese company do you suggest buying from? I don't live in an area with specialty markets or cheese producers. I don't buy Kraft products because of big tobacco. Are Kirkland Brand products off this list due to supporting Costco? Where are private label cheeses for grocery stores made? What about buying from out of state or out of country small batch or family produced cheeses? Isn't that a carbon footprint issue then? I can't boycott everything...

Anonymous said...

Safeway milk plant uses a lot of family dairy farms from the Pacific northwest coast,my husband works at the milk plant as a raw receiver

jerryketel said...

Kathleen,

Can you recommend a local producer of fine, affordable, humane, cheddar cheese?

And, no, I'm not buying Safeway cheese, Mr. Anonymous.

Thanks!

Anne Morian said...

Paula - buy Tillamook. It supports local Oregonians. Threemile Canyon Farms employs 300 fulltime, year-round employees. These jobs didn't exist in Morrow County before Threemile Canyon Farms.

Unknown said...

Go to your local farmers market or food co-op and find a cheese source. It will be more expensive yes. Accept that.

Anonymous said...

I was waiting to see if anyone would bring up what they did to Bandon. That was one of the nastiest things That whole situation was so ugly.

Bob Wiro said...

I have a better idea for all of that liquid manure, pond it and tent it and turn the Methane into power by running generators then sell that to PGE as a renewable resource. California Dairies do this and make $$ off of the electricity as California has a statute that requires the electricity companies to purchase any surplus power at fair market rates.

Farmer said...

Hi Kathleen, I'm sorry you feel the way you do about Tillamook Cheese. As one of the family farmer owners of the co-op, your comments are upsetting to me and hurtful to my family's livelihood. I disagree with some of the things you say, but defend your right to say them. Just remember you are hurting some of the family farmers you say you want to protect.

Keith said...

Now Ivy..... I didn't call you or anyone else a name.

I was raised in Tillamook. I worked for the very dairies the author spoke of. Did you know? There were several Tillamook cheese factories up and down hwy 101 from south Tillamook County to Tillamook. Some of these buildings are still standing. They aren't cheese factories anymore because it became costly and in-efficient. Trucking took the place of a need for so many buildings, people moved or lost their job.

The cheese factory has evolved over the years and so has the dairy farmer. They had to, to keep up with the demand of us. There is very little profit margin in milk. If you look at the price of a gallon of milk it compares to a gallon of gasoline today and in 1980 when I was working for dairies. How can a small farm make a living off of that. They couldn't. They either grew or sold out.

They aren't making anymore land, so they have to be effecient with the land they have.

All I'm saying is; it's us, not big business that is driving it. We want cheese and we want it cheap.

I live near Portland now. My neighbor has 10 dairy cows and he sells his raw milk for $5 per gallon. People make their own cheese, butter, and cream. It's raw, unpasteurized, and unregulated. He can do whatever he likes (unless someone gets sick, then he,s screwed.). The cheese factory is very regulated and that cuts into profit.

Here is the kicker: we will all do whatever we have to, to survive. None of us just want to survive, we long to thrive. Profit is how we thrive. The cheese factory isn't here to survive, it's here to thrive and so are its employees.

So.......is a troll a little ugly guy who lives under a bridge?

crush said...

Wow. You just changed my buying habit. I always thought Tillamook was local and farm friendly. Not buying another thing from them. How disappointing.

Keith said...

Kathleen, thank you for your reply. I guess growing up in Tillamook and knowing how many families he chose factory raised, got my blood boiling and got the best of me a little.

The cheese factory was too big for the organic model and too small to keep up with demand. It had to go corporate in my opinion.

I think the organic model is great and hopefully it can keep enough dairies operating. But I don't think you will see a bunch of new dairies popping up.

I just want to make the point that we drive all this with our demand for safe affordable dairy products. Let's not blame Tillamook.

IBCNU said...

It's still made mostly in Oregon and USA, and creates many local jobs. If you don't like it, eat cheese from Wisconsin. Last resort from a foreign nation.

Anonymous said...

I grew up & still live in Tillamook county. After the cheese factory started bullying their neighbors for using the name Tillamook, I stopped buying their product. Sucky company in my opinion! Not surprised the cows that make them money are kept in poor conditions. :(

Jeri OR said...

Paula makes a good point. We can't boycott everything. Sometimes it comes down to choosing the lesser of the evils, unless you plan on keeping a herd of cows in your back yard and making your own cheese at home.

Mike Kukral said...

Last year I was surprised to see Tillamook Cheese in stores in Istanbul, Turkey, and served on flights to South Africa. I've also seen it sold in shops in Kenya. My work tasked me to these places but summers are in Tillamook County. I still stop for ice cream at Barview Jetty store. Best prices and portions. Too bad about the treatment of dairy cows. It bothers me as my family were farmers in Ohio a couple generations ago. Maybe a new cheese company is needed in Tillamook.

Kathleen Bauer said...

For Paula and Jerry Ketel, who asked for recommendations: Because I need to buy aged cheeses (as mentioned in the post my husband is lactose-intolerant but loves cheese), I've been trying aged cheddar from Face Rock Creamery in Bandon—which coincidentally reopened the Bandon creamery after Tillamook bought it and subsequently closed it down. Other people have recommended Organic Valley cheese, which has a medium cheddar. Both are at least double the cost of the Tillamook versions but, as they say in the food world, cheap isn't always cheap on all fronts. I'd be interested to hear what others are using.

And on the other comments:

- Keith, thanks for toning it down.

- Paula, I'm certainly not calling for a boycott. This is a decision I made for my family based on research I did myself, which I've shared here. My philosophy, and that of Good Stuff NW, is that it's important to know where your food comes from and make buying decisions based on information rather than marketing.

- Farmer: I'm certainly not finding fault with the farmers who supply milk to Tillamook and are having their pastured milk mixed in with that of milk from a factory farm. Everyone has to make a living. My concern is with the practices of Threemile Canyon as outlined in the post and the toll that exacts on the livestock, the workers, the environment and the small dairies and local communities in our state. It's a purely personal decision what cheese people buy. I'm just sharing the reasons for my decision, whatever that amounts to.

Thanks everyone for your comments and for keeping the discussion civil and on-topic. It's not an easy discussion to have.

Anonymous said...

Wow,that is very informative. I hate to think of the baby calfs crying for their mothers and vs. A versa. The way you have described their short lives producing calves and enlarged utters makes me sick! I have to admit I tend to stick my head in the sand because I really don't want to hear of the cruelty that cows are put through for not only milk but meat. However,I acknowledge that because of this and for the sake of the environment, I really do need to be more aware and probably become a vegetarian and buy cheese from small farms. Thank you for your post.

Ted Roe said...

Thank you for this information, I used to love Tillamook cheese...grew up in Oregon. ..won't be buying any more of their product. ..in fact I am ready to walk away from dairy and eggs altogether. ..factory farming is cruel and I'd rather go without rather than cause suffering. ..".milk is for baby cows" - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Unknown said...

Threemile Canyon has a methane digester that burns for electricity into the grid. Do some homework and you would find that.

MarjorieElaine Peirce said...

This is good to know. Thank you for sharing that.

Anonymous said...

TCCA also was busted quite a few years ago by the EPA for sending untreated food waste into Tillamook Bay, endangering the shellfish industries operating there. The local Tillamook paper, the Headlight Herald described the clean-up as a public/private effort.You had to read the Daily Astorian to find out that TCCA was fined and required to do the clean-up and change their operating practices. I also live in Tillamook County and have no disagreement with comments made by other Tillamook County residents. Some dairies here are quietly moving toward organic practices. My understanding is the premium paid for OG milk far offsets the additional attention that a farmer must provide to the herd...because as with all OG practices, one must attend to, pay attention, tune in to the health of pasture & animals. One OG farmer told me years ago, "less stress, same amount of money."

MarjorieElaine Peirce said...

Kathleen Bauer. Thank you for this discussion. Although I'm sure you had some comments that you chose not to post (and I thank you for that), this was one of the best open discussions I have read or heard of in so so long. I've lived in Oregon since I was 2.... I'm now 72. Tillamook Cheese has been a main stay as much as the Coastal Range has. I don't eat as much cheese as I use to, but I had been eating Tillamook after I was reading the ingredients on some of the other brands. Especially the sliced cheese and shredded cheese products. (haven't bought a 'block' in years as it goes moldy before I finish it. Other makers of cheese, add SOY to their products !!!! I don't remember the brand names, but next time you are looking at cheese, check it out. When I want cheese, I want cheese... not soy. Many many years ago, my husband & I took a class at PCC about displaced workers. At the time Oregon was supported by 90% small businesses. Out of that, 80% were small businesses with less than 500 employees. I'm sure those figures have changed since then, with Niki, Intel, etc. coming into the state. However, one thing that remained with me from the class was this fact: For every small business, there comes a time when they must make a choice. #1... stay small and specialize if their grownth has become too big... or #2...change some of the things that they do in their business plan in order to keep up with the demand of the product. This usually involves the owner moving from developing and working the business (hands on) to doing more of the office type of business. Moving from the production floor to the board room, per say. #3...sell it to someone else and then start another small business. It sounds like Tillamook made the #2 choice. The conditions and treatment of the cows is horrible and will cause me to think about whether to continue buying Tillamook or not. I most likely will check into some of the other options given here. Oh yes, and thank you for the description of what a "Troll" is... although when I first was reading it, I must admit I thought about all of our news media. Keeping the pot stirring.. keeping people upset ... keeping division and fluing hate and anger is something 'reporters' and TV stations feed on any more. Years ago, I chose to not watch news programs... nor do I read anything on Facebook that favors one side or the others. When I was younger, a journalist truly sought The Truth... not taking one side or the other. That type of journalist no longer exist. Now it is simply someone reading a script that is politically movitvated... and usually for the money. Greed ... nothing else. Truth is hard to find any more. Thank you for taking the time to research and then share that research with us. I so so so appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

The people that are concerned about this arent likely buying crappy Nabisco prepackaged cookies, or waxy hershey/Mars chocolate either.

Phroggy said...

Exactly ,those people who don't care won't even finish the article ,but for those of us who vote with their dollars I'm glad I saw this.
I haven't spent a dime at McDonald's in over 35 years. I remember when they sold Real Food.

Anonymous said...

What about Face Rock Creamery in Bandon? From what I've read and tasted, they are legit!

Anonymous said...

But to make those choices based on ONE article? Really? We

Anonymous said...

Thank you... I am heartened to see that there are still people who recognize the importance of courtesy in society. Different opinions need not be socially divisive.

Marcia Denison said...

So, what kind of choices do cows have that are crammed into factory buildings where they can't even get out of the sewage to lay down and sleep?? Cows are intelligent beings. Many humans are not. We are all responsible for the well being of life around us. I quit Tillamook cheese when it got too expensive. My doctor took me off of Tillamook Ice Cream because it wasn't good for me. Both are too high in cholesterol. If you can look a miserable cow in the eye and tell it you don't care how miserable he/she is, you are a very selfish man indeed. Never do to another animal what you wouldn't do to yourself. Decent Dairymen spoil their cows who in turn give maximum milk without hormones, just a clean loafing shed with plenty of straw and a bathe every day. They get their hooves trimmed all the time so they feel well and respected. That place in Boardman should be shut down. Shame, Shame!!

Joan Taves said...

Agreed. Let those who don't care where their food comes from or what effect supporting industrial food has on local economies can buy whatever they want. This is information we need to make our own ethical choices.

Nadine said...

I was just going to suggest Face Rock Creamery cheese! It is excellent cheese! Their 2 yr aged cheddar took blue ribbon in the first international that they entered. Vampire Slayer is absolutely amazing! They put Tillamook in the Kraft box, in my opinion. Please, run, don't walk, and get yourself some Face Rock cheese. You can thank me later!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Smith said...

What a lot of people are missing is that this is based on supply and demand. Tillamook got its start somewhere. They didn't expand overnight. They probably started as a mom and pop shop or sold at a local farmers market that people just like most on here supported at one point. They produce good quality cheese, I'll continue buying it. Our country is expanding and demand will continue to grow. I wish it wasn't so. But this is a reality we live in and frankly support.

You go to a farmers market and buy this exquisite cheese it becomes popular and boom demand grows, production facilities expand and there you go a competitor of tillamook! So when that once exquisite cheese you used to buy at a farmers market grows will you stop buying it just because it's now available nationwide and their production facilities are just as big as tillamook?

Robin Thomas said...

it was offensive to label his operation as a “factory farm,” as it’s run by two families.The dairy has a digester that captures methane from manure and turns it into renewable energy. Threemile Canyon Farms, has about 50,000 cows and also raises potatoes and organic produce on more than 90,000 acres in the Columbia River Basin.BIG DOES NOT MAKE IT BAD.

Anonymous said...

How much more expensive? We moved from Oregon to Kansas City and we can rarely find it for under $15 a 2 lb block. We still buy it because it is the best cheese in the world.

Fannie McConnell said...

☝️ thanks Gary!

Msliz28 said...

Thank you for you comments.

Kathleen Lauman said...

Really enjoyed reading all the comments made on this topic ~ for or against. I have wondered all these same things. Mostly, enjoyed that the discussion was civil and on-topic as well. It is up to each of us to gather the information and do what is best for ourselves and our family.

daniel said...

The author didn't even mention the Bandon Cheese Factory and what Tillamook cheese did to them. I haven't purchased Tillamook since.

Anonymous said...

Vermont. Vermont. Vermont. Support actual dairy farmers. Not robots with bank accounts and lobbyists.

cdieter said...

There are other options near you.
www.eatwild.com
www.realmilk.com

Unknown said...

Bandon Cheese Co.cheese isn't made in the Bandon cheese factory.Tillamook cheese co. now produces "Bandon Cheese."
Face Rock Cheese is making cheese in Bandon.I been enjoying The Face Rock aged cheddar instead
of the vintage white tillamook chedder.

Anonymous said...

I avidly boycott gmo, factory farming and products for political reasons. I look for grass fed on dairy products. I prefer goat and sheep milk cheese since they are most likely small farms while still being affordable. Since I buy primarily organic, Tillamook is not a regular purchase. I make sure the word ultra pasturized is not on the label. That means they needed to boil the milk due to the crowded conditions the cows were kept. I only buy homonigized. Now it is hard to find Organic milk that is not ultra paturized. Milk that is ultra pasteurized boils nutrition out, as well as signals to the cows welfare. My point is even Organic is being produced in giant factory dairies, but there are key words that help a consumer who wants to shop in line with their environmental and political beliefs. Thank you for this article a company has choices and so do consumers.

Anonymous said...

Washington State University has a few cheeses they make. The flavors I have had are good. I don't know the behind the scenes process though. Just putting out another PNW source to look into.

Anonymous said...

Just reading through all this...++++ to you Kathleen keeping it proper!
The comment about having to scale up really hits me, it's unfortunate we do this to ourselves as people/society, many of the people commenting against this are probably silent culprits supporting/demanding more 'small local goods' but not being small local and real themselves to understand how it works, it's why whole foods and trader joes became what they are today. Demand for a label through trickle down realness

Anonymous said...

Why is "growth" the only business model? Why is it not enough to make a good product with locally sourced materials and a local labor force? Growth is the holy grail. No growth, even with a very solid customer base and top quality product, is some how a sign of a failing business. We hold the key...money. Support local small business and make sure they know that one of the main things you value is the local, small business nature of their company.

Lenny Orth said...

We try to buy local artisan cheeses when possible but Tillamook is always in the house.
I'm not happy about the realities of large scale farming but we naked apes reproduce faster than rats. Feeding the masses, sadly, requires those large scale farming operations.

Jim Carpenter said...

Here's my issue(s) with your piece. 1), Your facts and figures are about a decade old, and therefore not reliable. 2), If you are going to quote a source, make sure you use the whole name. It's the Tillamook Headlight Herald. 3), the TCCA, is a co-op, not a corporation. 4), your piece talks about all the negatives, and nothing positive. You mention nothing of the hundreds of living wage jobs that Tillamook Cheese provides, from dairy to production to shipping.

You suggest people to buy local, but I agree with what somebody else said. By not buying Tillamook products, you are potentially hurting the farmers and employees of our county and state.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, everyone, for your (mostly) courteous comments. I am heavily moderating comments to keep the discussion civil and on-topic. If you don't see your comment here, I either deleted it accidentally (sorry…fingers slip!) or it wasn't courteous or on-topic. You may, of course, repost with those criteria in mind. Thanks again for taking the time to read the post.

lamama said...

This is not true of all dairy farms.

Dana Corbin said...

i have a chunk of Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar in the frig right now. I have looked for years for an organic cheese that tastes as good as this cheese. I try not to eat it, but sometimes I give in. I'll try harder now that I've read this article.

Lynn Bentley said...

I will boycott Tillamook! Corporate greed makes me vomit.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Jim Carpenter: I will make a change to refer to the Tillamook Headlight Herald. As for your other concerns, while Tillamook is a co-op, Threemile Canyon Farms' corporate headquarters is in North Dakota. You are correct that some of the facts are from older sources, which is why I called out the dates so it would be clear to my readers. And the post explains the reasons for my (reluctant) decision to no longer purchase Tillamook products, so those reasons are not going to be happy ones. The happy news is that there are options for consumers like me who decide not to support factory farms. I strongly believe that the more of those products and producers I support, as Jon Bansen says, the more successful those businesses will be and the more jobs and profits they will bring to their communities. It's an individual decision that each of us makes with our dollars every time we purchase a product.

Anonymous said...

Thank you im a staunch advocate to support local business's especially food products. Mega producers are destroying food, society and the environment.

howellhaus said...

Hi Kathleen, thank you for the research. We have been a partial, Tillamook cheese household, to now. It's disappointing for many, included reasons. You hope, living in Oregon, that Oregon companies subscribe to higher standards. It's naive to think so, as you gracefully enlighten. Can you please indicate by reply, if you were able to determine which companies you would now prefer to use instead ? We use Organic Valley's Heavy Whipping Cream for our coffee and it's the bees knees. Admittedly, we are cheese heads, eating quite a few of the choices available through our local Market of Choice, but also Kerrygold and Coastal. Tillamook has mostly supplied our sliced cheese for sandwiches (sharp cheddar and swiss, via Costco) and shredded (sharp and medium cheddar, from Market of Choice)...

Anonymous said...

CABOT.

Lakes Ponds & Streams by Biologists said...

You can get all myopically focused on what happens at three mile in Boardman if you wish, but remember there are likely lots of old family farms around Tillamook that rely on the creamery Co-op to survive. Perhaps you should do some research to see if the coastal dairies' milk goes towards the more flavorful sharper cheese. If that is the case, you can simply switch to sharp cheese to make your statement while you continue to support rural Oregon. Rural Oregon deserves everyone's support.

I often wondered why Tillamook and Bandon are more mild tasting lately. The milk source likely explains it. I prefer the old cheese.

Margaret said...

Their Cougar Gold is fabulous - we always get some at Christmas time.

Galen Tromble said...

No, the government supports a minimum price level, but actual price above that level will change with supply and demand. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dairy_Price_Support_Program

Unknown said...

I'm truly saddened as well as outrage to learn of this deception put on by Tillamook dairy. I was happy they had Tillamook cheese in Missouri after I moved here three years ago from the Pacific Northwest. I will never buy their products again. I am going to look for local farmers in my area too but from instead. These mega farms need to stop. They are endangering our food sources, economy and the quality of lives of the animals. It's truly sad.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say, but to take the 'boycott' attitude with the Tillamook brand, you must then be prepared to take it to other brands too. It's good to be mindful consumers about the products we buy and consume, but we always have to weigh our consumer driven decisions against social and environmental concerns as well as budgetary restrictions. Boycotting one company is just the beginning of what, can quickly turn into a laundry list of did and don'ts. Be careful not to corner yourself in.

Deana Worel-VanSlooten said...

I work on a family owned dairy in Tillamook. So by boycotting tillamook cheese you will be ending family dairies in Tillamook. They may need to get more milk than this community can provide but they still use our milk. My calves appreciate your williness to disregard their contribution to tillamook cheese. A proud jersey calf nanny

Heather said...

For those looking for an alternate source of cheese: Azure Standard (also an Oregon company, and an awesome one) sells a raw milk sharp cheddar from Sierra Nevada that is actually better than the Tillamook sharp cheddar in the red wrapper, at a price that is competitive with Costco. We switched over last summer, just because I like to spend money with local sources first, Azure Standard second, Costco third, supposing prices are competitive.

Cher Groseclose said...

Love, Tillamook, and will always buy their cheese.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons for starting the Boardman operation was that the manure could be handled there better, in a drier climate with a preplanned system to prevent pollution. It was their response to the EPA suit that also enabled them to expand production.

Maybe its not as good as other brands but it beats the Kroger and Lucerne house brands.

Kenji Haroutunian said...

the real answer is 'why should I care about buying Tillamook? it's available everywhere, is a factory farm model now and I have tons of choices, as a modern-day consumer'. One article, a bundle of facts, and tons of options... enough for me. Until Tillamook proves otherwise, I have endless choices on buying local. We're cutting back on cheese anyway, so my spend will go down even if my qualitative choices cost me more.

JR said...

"...see the world for what it is..." is such a hopeless,resigned remark. Why not see it for what it could be if we were more mindful and willing to take action? You let yourself off the hook pretty easily,Tom. Take responsibility for the consequences of your actions!

Anonymous said...

My family is a 3 generation farm family. My husband and I took over for my parents who took over for my grandparents.
We were the small family farm. Milked just over 110 cows, raised our own calves on site marked in a flat barn.
Bought everything local.
But as milk prices dropped and cost of feed and hay came up the small farmer could not make it unless they owned everything out right.
You were also being pushed to build above ground disposal tanks mostly at our cost, and other upgrades that the DEQ and other organizations for forcing the farmers to do.
Between this and the cost of living on the rise and the cost of feed for the animals going up the economy itself was pushing the small dairy farmer out Business .
Years ago the cheese factory was making its famous cheese as a specialty cheese in return the farmers got paid more for the milk but at some point someone came in and decided we should sell it as a commodity meaning you can buy it anywhere driving the price down and making it so people wanted more of the Products making it so Tillamook had to outsource .
I'm very proud of my small farming Heritage and all that it means and all my family did for the Cheese Factory. But the future remains to be seen.i would love to see them do something to all the small farmers that came before these big farms because without them there would never have been a Cheese Factory in Tillamook county. It was these farmers who developed the cheese and how it's made and that's where the focus needs to go. Not bashing what has become such a big Company but help them remember where they came from.

NE Foodie said...

Cabot creamery is also a co-op, which stretches down to South Carolina. While many of their farmers allow cows to graze,many also do not.

It is an unfortunate standard in dairy farms of all sizes that dairy cows generally rotate between a barn and a milking parlor. Even some of the organic stuff found at farmers markets comes from farms that don't allow their cows to graze. Grass fed is not a reliable label either, as it is totally acceptable to feed cows clipped grass while in their stalls in the barn. If knowing that cows are allowed outside is important to you, it is important to ask the farmer/company.

Terpsichore Barnett said...

One other choice, granted a large one, is to become vegan.

keizerfire said...

If you buy Tillamook products, you are still supporting the town of Tillamook. I mean, it's $6.88 for a 2 lb block at Walmart. Yes it's more expensive at the factory, because stores get a discount based on volume. Everyone has to make their own choices, and at least we still have that option. And I believe Tillamook Creamery is still a cooperative, owned by the dairy farmers.

Dave Edson said...

Reading the comments section gives me hope for humanity. It's so much more civilized than, well, anything I've read in ages. Maybe it's heavily moderated, or maybe I have reason for hope.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I grew up in Bandon. Tillamook has been doing bad business for years.

Billy Angus said...

I'm pretty much giving up dairy in favor
of plant-based alternatives.

Jon said...

I'm curious as to how many of those 300 jobs were filled by residents already living in Morrow County and what the average wage is?

Anne Morian said...
Paula - buy Tillamook. It supports local Oregonians. Threemile Canyon Farms employs 300 fulltime, year-round employees. These jobs didn't exist in Morrow County before Threemile Canyon Farms.

3:23 PM

beachcomber said...

I agree. Plus, we, as consumers, have to be willing to pay more. I pay more for locally sourced milk purchased rather than the less expensive gallon from far away industrial farms. Granted, it's easier now that the kids are out of the house but I was always the big milk drinker, anyway.

Laurie said...

I read your blog and sent a Tillamook a message. They wrote a thoughtful, thorough reply back. I cannot add it here (from a print screen) but I will resume buying their product.

Anne Morian said...

Yes - the jobs were filled locally. The employees are paid well - represented by the UFW. There are now even 2nd generation employees. Also the internship program helps attract college grads - who often complete their educations with scolarships provided by the farm. (Somehow this autofilled with my maiden name. My name is Anne Myers.)

Anonymous said...

Tillamook is a co-op run by farmer families. Everything they do business wise, advertising wise etc gets approved by the families. The families make decisions to keep their brand healthy and keep their business alive so they can continue to provide a pretty decent product, all things considered. With the changing economy over the years, the families need to make decisions about how to make more money. That has led to growth of distribution. To me this is a simple business model, and admirable if you look at tillamook's humble beginnings. I hope those articles about potential animal cruelty aren't true, but have a hard time believing them entirely knowing this company. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and our lives are just a series of decisions we make. To me, tillamook is one of the best companies around today, and I will continue to support a locally started company that's main mission is to combat the Kraft's and Yoplaits out there. Those are the real evils.

Tracy Martinson said...

The problem is greed. I figured this out when I was a child. Its not good enough to make a decent living for yourself and your family anymore. Instead companies like this want monopolies and empires. They didn't need to expand, they didn't need to make a fortune they chose this over compassion for employees, animals, local family farms, the environment. Those things are less important than chasing the dollar.

Anonymous said...

Rogue Creamery makes award winning blues but their cheddars are amazing! Plus they have transitioned to organic, and they are a B Corp!

Anonymous said...


I no longer eat Tillamook Cheese! Most of the Tillamook cows no longer graze fine pastures during the summer months. Now there's over 4,500 prime acres sprayed with Roundup and planted to GMO corn and fed to the cows and made into Tillamook Cheese. Also Tillamook has it's own Factory farms. The Hogan Factory Farm that has over 7,000 cows right east of town. That same Factory farm has worlds largest concrete manure storage tank right next to Highway 6. No wonder the Fish Peddler imports their oysters from Washington. No more factory farm dairy products for me!

Connie Owens Kuipers said...

I was so happy to find Tillamook cheese here in Colorado. Having grown up in Oregon I was proud to support them. I even told others to buy it, but now I am so disappointed in them. I could understand them growing and having to spread out, but treating the cows the way they do, I will stop buying their products. I have tried to be so careful to buy food that doesn't treat the animals inhumanely, making sure I buy cage free eggs etc. and it makes me sad to realize those blocks of Tillamook cheese was coming from cows that were mistreated. I also had noticed a change in the strength of flavor in the mild, which I prefer, that it seemed I needed a thicker slice to get enough taste on the grilled cheese sandwiches that I so love. Well, now I must find a new source of cheese. Thank you for your article.

Mary H said...

Reality is we allowed these things to happen to stop it now mean hundreds of jobs. More likely thousands. When you talk. About stopping something this large it's nearly impossible.

Michael Romano said...

I had no idea. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed visiting the creamery during trips to the coast, but it looks like they've carefully created a very misleading "family dairy" image even though that no longer applies to this rather large industrial operation.

Kathleen Bauer said...

A bit of blog business here: I have never in 11 years of blogging had this kind of response to a post. I'm trying to manage comments in the best way I can, trying to be fair to all views, but it's been a steep learning curve in terms of managing this much discussion and the levels of heated debate. And, as noted above, I have accidentally deleted a few comments simply by clicking the wrong button (Blogger doesn't have a comment "trash," so if it's deleted there are no take-backs).

Also, this post documents the research I was able to find online relating to the issue at hand, which is the cheese I bought for my family's table. In doing that research, I contacted Tillamook several times asking for figures, and they responded that those are figures that are not released to the public. I then contacted them with the results of my research, including facts and figures, asking for confirmation or clarification, and they never responded.

To reiterate one other point: This post is about my personal decision to no longer purchase Tillamook products and the reasons I made that decision. I'm not boycotting their products or encouraging others to boycott their products. People need to do their own research and make their own decisions regarding where they spend their food dollars.

Anonymous said...

At the bottom of the first page on the farms webpage it says " Threemile Canyon Farms is not affiliated with or sponsored by the Tillamook County Creamery Association. HMMM sounds suspicious? http://threemilecanyonfarms.com/index.html

Kathleen Bauer said...

One other clarification: Anne Myers/Anne Morian is someone who has commented on this post. She is the wife of the general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms, Marty Myers. Mr. Myers was recently appointed to the Oregon Board of Agriculture by Governor Kate Brown.

Bill said...

Tillamook was also instrumental in defeating Prop. 97 in the last election. Their "small family farm" enjoys sales as far away as Florida and Texas. In the same league as Wal-Mart, I'm afraid. In their recent struggles didn't they close their historic gift shop only to open one five times its size??

jim said...

Your last point of clarification seems to me like you're saying that to vilify her and her family. I find it in poor taste to point out who her husband is or what her husband does for a living. Like some other comments, she was giving details about the farm. Does her comments mean less because of that?

Kathleen Bauer said...

Jim: Not intending to villify, just clarify. And no, it's fine if Ms. Myers (or anyone else) wants to comment…ethically, it would be better to state her connection since her husband is intimately connected with the business, as it would with anyone who is employed by either company or lobbying organization.

Anne Myers said...

This is intended to clarify they are not a member producer of the coop. They are an independent operation.

linabella said...

Bandon Cheddar is comparable in price to Tillamook, and in some stores, costs less.

MJ said...

I kid you not, I saw Tillamook cheese in a grocery store in Bali, Indonesia, more than 10 years ago. Granted it was in the "western" aisle, but I could not believe that a hometown product was exported all the way to SE Asia. I still love Tillamook products, but this definitely makes me think harder about where I spend my cheese dollars.

Anonymous said...

We're moving to MO in a few months. I hope we can find locally produced cheese there, since I want to switch from Tillamook, too. I've noticed the flavor changing recently, less "different" than the other cheddars out there. I hear the Springfield, MO area produces all kinds of good organic, non-gmo foods...meats, eggs, veggies. Now I have to do some research.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

Hi, Kathleen! Now that I'm home and inventorying my refrigerator, here's what I see. The sharp cheddars say "Made with pride by Tillamook County Creamery Association," while the Mexican Four Cheese and Italian Blend say "Distributed by Tillamook County Creamery Association." So my hair-splitting choice for now is to continue using my beloved sharp cheddar, and I'll think about the other two. My other option that I used before moving up to Tillamook for the cheese blends was Kroger, and I can't imagine that the workers/cows producing those cheeses were treated any better than the ones at Threemile Canyon Farms.

Rita Cantu said...

So, I'm originally from Oregon. I've lived in Texas for 32 years. I was raised on Tillamook products. Yes, we also have them here. Tillamook cheese has been my "go to" cheese for years. I was so pleased a few years ago when their ice cream showed up in the freezer cases here! After reading this, I will not buy Tillamook products!!�� I will be forced to go with the "store brand" products or actually give up milk & milk products completely! Which might make me healthier in the long run! This is WRONG!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am just baffled that the people who say too bad for the small dairy farmer because big industry is the way the market goes - are the same people who voted for Trump because there is no economy in their rural town. They make no sense. And no, it is not regulation because the regulation hasn't put Tillamook out of business. I am sad to hear about Bandon Cheese Factory, I did not know that and thought I would switch to their cheese. Guess not. Will have to find something else. As you get older, quality food becomes something you know your body needs for health, but also something you know is just better for the planet all the way around.

Karen said...

I'm so glad you brought this to my (our) attention. Sad, but we all needed to know what was/is really going on and why. Like most commenting here, I am a native Oregonian, and trips to the coast (I live in Salem) always included a stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Like others that have commented, I would ride along in the car, hearing my Dad talk about the black and white cows we were passing and with pride, boasting that's "where all the milk to make all the cheese comes from!" I am proud to have read the comment about the 70 year old, that decided to quit dairy products after learning of the cruel life that cows and their offspring are forced to endure. A two year life expectancy cut from a possible 25 year life span is tragic to say the least. My heart goes out to the people of Tillamook (not the brand, but the town)that devoted their lives to put out a product they were proud of. Just the fact that Tillamook Cheese believes they own the word, "Tillamook" tells you everything you need to know about that company. Shameful!!!

Anonymous said...

The blog gave information I did not have, and from the information, I decided that I don't want my family to ingest this particular cheese anymore, not as a boycott, but for health reasons. My desire is to feed my family food that is as close to the way God created it as possible. Cheese should come from cows who graze on healthy, organic grass, not penned cows fed grains and hay. Not just for taste's sake, but health's sake. We still do Target and Disney, even if we disagree with their politics, but they don't affect our health the way food does. We don't buy anything with wheat in it, either, not to boycott wheat, but to eat food not laced with RoundUp. I don't want to ingest pesticides if I can help it. I haven't read all the comments, but I think that's the main reason most people here are deciding to not buy the cheese anymore, not to hurt Tillamook financially or maliciously. A product that used to be created a certain way and was healthful and tasty has changed, both in healthfulness and taste, and we don't want to consume it anymore. At least that's my take on it.

Unknown said...

Thank you. For an area with relatively few opportunities Tillamook is a good job for folks there. They are creating not only American jobs but Oregonian jobs at that.