Some of the finest cheese in the nation is produced right here in Turlock according to the World Dairy Expo, which recently presented the Dairy Farmers of America with five awards in the prestigious Dairy Product competition.

DFA swept the mozzarella category and took home first and second place honors in the provolone category thanks to the high-quality cheese products that are produced at the cooperative’s Turlock facility. All three DFA mozzarella cheeses earned nearly perfect scores, with the first-place winner receiving a 99.65 composite score. In the provolone category, DFA’s first place winner received a 99.1composite score.

The Turlock facility is no stranger to winning national accolades, plant manager Tim Durham explained. Since opening in 1987, the DFA Turlock plant has won well over 25 awards, including the highest award, the Chairman’s Plaque, in the 2014 Championship Cheese Contest of the National Milk Producers Federation for its provolone. It’s a combination of high-quality, local products and dedicated workers that contribute to the facility’s success, Durham said.

“I think everyone wants to go to work every day and know that they’ve made a difference, and now we can physically put something in front of our team and say, ‘You’ve done this. You’re recognized as being among the very best,” he said. “And for our members, this is something that they’re very proud of because delivering safe, quality food to the consumer is ultimately one of the most important things we need to do, especially in a huge agricultural area like this.”

Taking home awards in the Soft Italian cheese category is a competitive endeavor, as large and small producers all over the country all have a stake in making the popular pizza topping, mozzarella, and the tasty deli choice in provolone.

There’s plenty to get right for both, Durham said, like making sure the mozzarella has the right stretch and mouth feel, and producing provolone cheese with just the right amount of pungent flavor. These techniques combined with the locality of the DFA Turlock facility’s milk produces award-worthy cheese.

“Being in Turlock is an advantage for us. We have members deliver milk from as close as three miles away and probably most of our milk comes from within a 25-mile radius,” Durham said. “There’s certainly a quality advantage.”

The World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product contest, sponsored by Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, garners participation from across the United States and received more than 1,430 entries this year. Products are judged in 85 categories, including cheese, butter, fluid milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, sour cream, sherbet, cultured milk, sour cream dips, whipping cream, whey and other creative/innovative products from dairy producers throughout North America.

Awards were given to the following DFA cheese products made in Turlock: Low Moisture Whole Milk Mozzarella (First Place and Second Place), Provolone (First Place and Second Place) and Low Moisture Part Skim Mozzarella (Third Place).

“Soft Italian cheese is a very competitive category, so it’s a real honor to be recognized for producing some of the highest-quality soft Italian cheeses in the U.S.,” Kim Parks, vice president, business optimization, DFA Ingredient Solution said. “This award is a testament to our dairy farm families who work hard to produce top-quality milk as well as our plant employees who consistently focus on developing great-tasting cheeses for our customers.”