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Penn State Berkey Creamery



Penn State’s Berkey Creamery is widely known for its delicious ice cream, along with other dairy products it produces from milk from the Penn State dairy farm. Jim Brown, the Berkey Creamery’s assistant manager shares about the Creamery, it’s history and role on campus. 

First, tell our listeners about the Creamery, it’s history and changes over the years.

Well, there's been many changes over the years. As you know, we began in 1865, so that makes us more than 156 years old. There are a lot of things that have changed in the milk and ice cream business from there.

In 1865, we actually started in a barn as part of a hayloft in a blacksmith shop. Boy we've come a long way since then.

In 1889, we built our first standalone Creamery, did a lot of academic research, dairy manufacturing. So, for the most part, when we started out as a Creamery, it was more like a dairy manufacturing plant inside of university, where we actually had raw milk come in from the local farmers to help process that milk and service to the community. But also to be a research center, because back then, manufacturing dairy products, and making them safe, and figuring out pasteurization, and modularization that was a new thing. People take that for granted now, but that was a new thing.

We moved in 1901 to the Patterson building. The Patterson building is actually still on campus. It is right by catty-corner to the library on campus.

In 1931, we moved to Borland Lab and believe it or not, that's when we actually built a store so people could actually come in and get our products, which the was on the second floor.

It wasn't until 1961 that we built a first-floor store that we attached to the outside of Borland Lab.

Our newest place, which believe it or not was established in 2006. Our Creamery was built in 2006 and it is named the Penn State Berkey Creamery. The building itself is 133,000 square feet, cost approximately $46 million and the Creamery occupies three quarters of the first floor. We are known now as the largest university creamery in the country.

The Creamery itself started out academic-based in the university and research and manufacturing, but I think more so than ever, the Creamery itself has become the traditional meeting place or event place on campus. I think a lot of the reason for that is that because it's so old, we have created generation after generation of Penn State alumni coming there visiting the Creamery and it's become a meeting place.

Now it's kind of ironic of those students that visited the Creamery when they were students at campus 60 years ago now have their great, great grand children coming there and visiting there. So that generation has multiplied, and that's why it's become an iconic traditional meeting place.

Besides ice cream, the Berkey Creamery also makes a number of other products. Tell our listeners about all of the products produced and how they are marketed.

I'm so glad you asked that question because here's the deal - a lot of people talk about the Creamery from the face of the store, right? So when people were talking, they say, “Hey, let's meet at the Creamery, or let's go to the Creamery.” Most people think solely of the store and visiting and having ice cream.

But what people don't realize is we're a very diverse operation because we have a full facility manufacturing plant that we utilize those products to service the entire university housing and foods besides actually having it in the store. Besides ice cream, we manufacture fluid milk and cultured products, like cheddar cheese, sour cream, cream cheeses, ricotta and yogurt. We do juices, iced teas, lemonade, and we're able to do that diverse type of products because there's so much of a demand on campus for it.

There are many convenience stores and five or six dining facilities. There's two hotels, many eateries, and of course the Creamery store.

We're very fortunate that throughout the years that all the students on campus, the faculty, and staff have become accustomed to creamery products. That's why we've diversified so much in making those different types of products.

The Berkey Creamery’s mission statement notes that it supports the teaching, research and outreach programs of the Department of Food Science. Could you explain the Creamery’s role in each of those areas and examples of how it accomplishes that mission?

It's ironic that you bring that question up because I have been at the Creamery for 16 years and of course I do all the tours and marketing side of the Creamery. Our mission statement is embedded in my brain. I can close my eyes and say that mission statement so many times over and without even having to rehearse it. It's been embedded into my mind.

So let me explain a little bit about that -

The Creamery is self-sustaining, which means we do not receive any funds from the university. All the funds that we do make not only go to pay the expenses that we have at the Creamery, but also to assist in the university under the Department of Food Science and the College of Ag.

We employ student interns that work in the plant, the lab, out in store, sometimes in our commissary to assist us, but also to learn a lot.

Then we provide financial support to a lot of university staff positions. So we're able to do that. Of course, we provide academic support in the form of workshops and short courses. For instance, every year Food Science Department in the College of Ag have a lot of short courses that they teach the outside organizations and businesses such as the ice cream short course, the frozen dessert short course, the HACCP short course and sanitation short courses. Of course, what better laboratory or operation to do those things and test those things, but right in our plant. So we do a lot of that.

We also partner with a lot of Penn State entities and organizations to support Penn State growth, whether it's partnering with the bakery on Penn State, or partnering with the Meats Lab, or people that provide honey or eggs. We try to partner with as many Penn State entities as possible, so that we're not only promoting the Creamery but we're also assisting overall Penn State businesses and organizations too.

Simply put, we're kind of an iconic traditional location that tries to help everybody on Penn State as much as possible.

But we also have opportunity if you don't create a product. We provide the meeting place for faculty, staff and students that might bring people from the outside in, and along with the Penn State athletics, and the stadium, and the Bryce Jordan Center, and the Pegula Arena

We're a place that you just have to visit if you come to Penn State.

As we wrap up, and in honor of July Ice Cream month, tell us your favorite ice cream flavor and anything else you’d like to share with our listeners.

It's going to sound like a setup because as soon as you said, what you said about your favorite flavor, I was going to say it right at the very beginning, what my favorite flavor was. My favorite flavor is Death by Chocolate. I know that sounds like I'm just jumping on the bandwagon, but there's no other flavor out there that provides a triple chocolate, the way Death by Chocolate does. Right?

We've had a lot of contests throughout the year and they were fun contests. We have, what's called Flavor Madness that mirrors March Madness basketball. What we do is we put our flavors against each other in a bracket just like March Madness basketball does. Every year for the past five years, Death by Chocolate has been the winner. The finalists have been the same, and that is Death by Chocolate and Bittersweet Mint. Obviously you and I, aren't the only ones that find Death by Chocolate to be the favorite, because it is our number one flavor.

I'd like to invite everybody to stop by the Penn State and the Penn State Creamery. If you visit Penn State, like you said, you have to visit the Creamery, but it's not just a dairy and a place that you can get ice cream. It's a true event to take the family to and enjoy it.

We have great tasting products. We have a great atmosphere, but I'll add this, if you can't make it to the Creamery and you've always had questions about what Creamery ice cream and Creamery products tastes like, I want everybody to feel free to visit our online shop. A lot of people don't know that we have an e-commerce site. It's, and you can have products from the Creamery, shipped all over to the 48 continental United States.

So if you can't make it here, we come to you.

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