Southwest Cheese starting production

Construction on the $200 million cheese plant started in early 2004. (File photo)

Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Southwest Cheese received their first delivery of milk Tuesday, although by the end of the year it will only be operating at 30 percent of capacity, according Southwest Cheese Company Chief Executive Director Maurice Keane.

The plant received 65,000 pounds of milk Tuesday from local co-ops Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers, Inc., Keane said.

“We are in process of commissioning the plant — preparing it for staff and various production lines,” Keane said.

That process will go on until early 2006, Keane said.
“We will gradually start to commission different parts of the plant,” Keane said. “Today went well. It’s another positive step along the way to getting the plant up and running.”

Keane said the employees began to produce “trial” cheese Tuesday, but no Southwest Cheese products will be ready for sale until late October.

By the numbers:
• 7 —  Millions of pounds of milk the plant will receive daily at full capacity
• 40 —  Weight in pounds of initial cheese blocks produced by the plant
• 160 —  Southwest Cheese employees working Tuesday
• 400 —  People on site Tuesday, including the construction crew
• 640 — Weight in pounds of cheese blocks by the plant by 2006