Feb 8, 2022 - Food and Drink

Cheese made from Philadelphia school's cows hits store shelves

Tamia Grimes, a 17-year-old, stands beside a cow
Tamia Grimes, a 17-year-old junior at W.B. Saul High School, pets a cow at the school's working farm on Monday. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

Cheese made exclusively from the milk of Philadelphia cows is hitting supermarket shelves in the city.

What's happening: W.B. Saul High School in Roxborough is distributing cheese under its own label — using milk exclusively from cows on its working farm — for the first time this year.

  • The types of cheeses include Gouda, cheddar, colby and baby Swiss.

Why it matters: Tenth and 11th grade students involved in the farm's vocational program take part in nearly every aspect of raising and taking care of the cows, from breeding to milking.

  • And profits from selling the cheeses go right back to the school.

By the numbers: The farm — which has 11 cows and 10 heifers, or young cows — is estimated to potentially raise around $30,000-$40,000 a year by selling the cheese locally.

  • The cows produce around 360 pounds of milk a day at the farm.
Cows
Cows standing inside stalls at the working farm at W.B. Saul High School. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

Catch up fast: Land O'Lakes had bought milk from the school’s cows for decades. The major dairy producer used it to make cheeses and other products.

  • But that relationship ended late last year over issues around transporting the milk from the school, farm administrator Jane Arbasak told Axios Monday.
  • The school is now partnering with an Amish cheesemaker in Lancaster County to produce cheeses.

The intrigue: The cheeses have drawn a flurry of interest, particularly from school alumni, after landing at Roxborough deli T & F Farmers' Pride as part of a test launch last month.

What they're saying: "This cheese is from our cows and from no other cows, and it's exciting because we actually have a product that people can [buy]," Arbasak said.

Emily Cullen, an 11th grade animal science teacher, told Axios that the effort is special because students "get to see the full dairy cycle, full circle."

  • Tamia Grimes, a 17-year-old junior in the vocational program, said she's always wanted to help animals and hopes to become a veterinarian.
  • "It's been my dream to come to Saul because I can hands-on work with these animals," Grimes said.

What's next: More of the school's cheeses can be found at T & F Farmers' Pride and Weavers Way Co-op in the coming weeks.

  • The school is also exploring opportunities to sell the farm's milk and cheeses to local restaurants and businesses, Arbasak said.
Blocks of cheese
Cheese produced from the milk of cows at the school's working farm seen here on sale at T & F Farmers' Pride in Roxborough in January. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios
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