Production process Ben & Jerry’s: from cow to cone
Step 1: the milk
The milk that is used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream comes from 10.000 cows from hundreds of local family farms. The milk from these farms goes to the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, based in St. Albans, Vermont. The Ben & Jerry’s factories based in the USA only work with the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery to provide the milk and cream. The two companies have a close relationship and interaction. Ben & Jerry’s pays a premium price for the milk and cream, and St. Albans Cooperative Creamery only delivers products with an excellent quality. Ben & Jerry’s also supports the dairy farmers that deliver their milk to St. Albans Coop. When prices for dairy are very low, dairy farmers are often threatened by a financial crises. E.g. in 2003, when dairy farmers were desperate due to extremely low dairy prices. But Ben & Jerry’s stepped up to the plate and created funds for emergency situations for many struggling dairy farmers. At the Cooperative Creamery, the milk is separated into heavy cream and condensed skim milk. The cream and skim milk are then shipped by tanker trucks to the Ben & Jerry’s factories in St. Albans and Waterbury, both based in Vermont. Arriving at the factory, the milk and cream are pumped in four 6.000 gallons storage silos, at 2° Celsius. It waits there until it can be converted into Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Step 2: mixing the basic ice mix
In the overall ice cream production scheme, making the basic ice mix is one of the most important part of the process. A highly skilled and experienced person, the Mix Master, performs mix-maxing procedures in the Blend Tank. The Blend Tank is a 1000-gallons stainless steel mega-blender, which mixes all the ingredients for the basic ice mix together. The main ingredients are fresh heavy cream and condensed skim milk, from St. Albans Dairy Cooperative, egg yolks and liquid cane sugar. The Mix Master sometimes adds coco powder, for chocolate flavored ice cream. Finally, also natural stabilizers are added to the mix, to prevent heat shock and the formation of ice-crystals. All these ingredients are blenderized for about 6 to 8 minutes, resulting in either a white sweet cream mix or a chocolate mix. Ben & Jerry’s buys their ingredients, like vanilla and cocoa, through socially aligned sourcing. This means that Ben & Jerry’s only buys from suppliers in whose values and goals Ben & Jerry’s believes in. So they don’t buy goods in the conventional way, by only looking at price. E.g. they source their cocoa from a farmers in Ghana, who are very committed to long-term sustainable agricultural techniques. They also buy from progressive demographic-run cooperatives in Indonesia, for a portion of the vanilla. The brownies for their ‘Chocolate Fudge Brownie’ ice cream are supplied by The Graceston Bakery since 1988. This bakery trains low-income people, and could even open new bakery to support better social services for the community. All thanks to the supplier relationship with Ben & Jerry’s. Step 3: pasteurization and homogenization
After the basic ice cream mix is blended, it can be pasteurized and homogenized. Pasteurization is the process of heating the mix, in order to kill harmful bacteria. The pasteurizer is made up of a series of thin stainless steel plates. Hot 83°C water flows on one side of the plates, and 2°C cold mix is pumped through on the other side. Heat from water is transferred to the mix, heating it up to 82°C. Before it has a chance to cool down, the mix is put through the homogenizer. Here, the mix is forced under very high pressure (about 200 pounds per square inch) and is forced through a small opening. By doing this, the fat particles from the cream are so finely divided and emulsified that they don’t separate from the rest of the mix. The homogenizer works like a piston pump; the mix is drawn into the cylinder on the downstroke,...
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