On the 12th of September both Business Studies classes attended a trip to the Dale Farm creamery in Dunmanbridge. Our aim on the trip was to gain plenty of knowledge about Dale Farm in the particular areas of its location, new technology and quality assurance to help us with our Controlled Assessment.
As soon as we got there, we were given a brief overview of the Dale Farm Company where we learnt a few basic facts such as how it uses up excess milk made in Northern Ireland that has no other use and that the creamery in Dunmanbridge is the only site that makes cheddar cheese. We were then split into 2 groups and kitted up into our protective clothing to stop the passing of germs through the factory. Our protective clothing consisted of a protective jacket, a hair net/hat and overshoes. Once we entered the factory each person had to wash their hands before entering. Whilst here, we noticed that the workers each had their own special shoes for working in. This highlighted how important good hygiene is to Dale Farm as it was a very thorough process.
The first group went to see the production of the cheese which was a very complex process. The first part of production was the pasturer, this was temperature treatment on the milk in order to kill bad bacteria thus stop TB from spreading. We were then shown to a small machine called HAACP – (hazard analysis and critical control point.) This looks at each process step to see what could go wrong. Next we were taken to the vats which held 22 thousand litres of milk! Here, the flavour/colour/renit is added which changes the milk into a jelly texture which is then cut. At this process we were able to actually look into the vats and witness the milk being formed into jelly, it was also warmed up and some of the moisture was taken out of it. Further along the production line we were finally able to try the cheese in its early stage of production. The cheese was very rubbery, looked a bit like scrambled egg whites and had no taste whatsoever. We were able to try it again after it had been through the cheddaring machine, which drove out more of the moisture and hardened it up slightly. It had an extremely similar look and texture to the cheese we had previously tasted. Towards the end, the cheese is weighed and salt is added. We were told that at this point that the cheese still has no taste to it. The cheese then goes through “towers” which are electric machines that press the cheese and ensure there’s nothing wrong with it.
Throughout our tour around this part of the factory, I observed that the machines are very complex as they consist of large metal tanks that are all very elevated (there were a lot of stairs we had to use to get around each process.) All of the machines are also very up-to-date and advanced pieces of technology.
We were then taken into the retail room which is where the cheese is treated to 3-9 months after cheese production. It consisted of 3 lines, and we looked at the first 2. The first line was retail blocks of cheese and the second line was packets of grated cheese. In the first line there was a sensor to sense the block of cheese which then cut it into specific measurements. It’s also programmed to reject any cheese that is underweight. Any underweight cheese is dropped into a bag and melted down and sold cheaper to alternative customers. In the second line, the cheese is shredded in the shredder. A certain amount of cheese is then weighed and dropped into its retail packaging. We were then lead into a separate room to look at the quality control and a worker there showed us some cheese being tested to ensure the quality of it was at a high standard. Every 10/15 minutes the cheese is checked in pressurised water baths to ensure there’s no air bubbles from mould. Every 15 minutes there is a metal detection test. If anything is detected in either test, all of the products are brought back from the last successful check and checked again. After all the products are successfully in their own packaging, they are put into large brown boxes by the workers and exported to be sold in places such as shops, supermarkets, schools and restaurants.
Although there were a few complaints about the smells, overall it was a rather enjoyable trip due to the amount of information we were able to gather that will most definitely be useful when writing our controlled assessment about Dale Farm.