The $50m project will allow Burley-based cooperative High Desert Milk to increase its annual butter output from 45m pounds to 85m pounds and add a new milk-powder product, MPC-70, to its portfolio.
MPC-70 is a milk-protein concentrate containing 70% protein. It can be used in sports-nutrition beverages, protein bars, icings, desserts, soups, sauces, baked goods, and dairy foods.
High Desert research scientist Dr Brandon Carter said the coop creates MPC-70 by removing most of the lactose from skim milk and concentrating the proteins via a filtration process that applies pressure to remove sugar from the protein.
The coop will create 36m pounds of MPC-70 annually in addition to the 68m pounds of nonfat dry milk it currently produces each year. High Desert's CEO, Randy Robinson, said 60% of its MPC-70 is earmarked for Latin America.
Robinson said the new production line, part of a 10-year growth plan, became operational in June. Although a cooperative, High Desert recently began contracting milk.
"Finding new sources of milk is a new business model for us as a vertically-integrated cooperative," Robinson said.
"We currently receive 2.2m pounds of milk per day, and when our MPC-70 production line goes online our intake capacity will reach 4.7m pounds per day. We are in a unique position to help other dairymen in the Magic Valley who are struggling to achieve their ambitions."
Six dairy farm families joined together in 2001 to establish High Desert Milk as a marketing cooperative to secure better pricing. It built a milk powder plant in 2008 and began offering sweet cream in 2008 and butter in 2013.
"The farm-to-table movement and consumer interest in local food sourcing has grown in popularity in the last several decades," Robinson said.
"It's important for people to know that High Desert Milk handles everything from the animal feed to the milking parlor to the package. That allows us to control our quality and food safety."
Karianne Fallow, CEO of Idaho and Utah dairy promotion organization Dairy West, said, “High Desert Milk is a leading example of the kind of innovative, growth-oriented companies that prosper in Idaho because it cares about the animals, the people, and the products that make it so successful.”
She said High Desert's current output represents 5% of the total milk processed in Idaho.
High Desert Milk employed 105 people prior to the expansion, and expects to add another 44 jobs with the new MPC-70 production line.
This is the second expansion since the plant was built in 2008: It added an extra 500,000 pounds of butter-making capacity to the existing facility in 2013.