By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Proud Connection
FRANKFORT, Ky. – As if powered by the Kentucky Proud milk it stands for, Udderly Kentucky has been in a serious growth spurt since its launch 11 months ago.
Udderly Kentucky is the only milk that Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt uses to make its product in 13 shops in Kentucky. The chain is the biggest buyer of milk in Kentucky behind grocery stores, according to Orange Leaf co-owner Evan Morris.
Another frozen treat maker, Crank & Boom in Lexington, uses Udderly Kentucky to make its craft ice cream. The milk has expanded its distribution to cafeterias at Western Kentucky University and Berea College.
Udderly Kentucky has added nine Walmart stores to its original list of 32 that sell the milk. The brand is now carried by almost half of the Walmarts in Kentucky, most of them located in central and eastern Kentucky.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said the expanding Udderly Kentucky program will continue to boost the state's dairy industry by helping to keep Kentucky dairy farms in business.
"We think this brand is going to continue to grow," Commissioner Comer said. "We're going to continue to help keep dairy farmers in Kentucky on the farm."
"We're working on getting the brand into Walmarts in Louisville and western Kentucky," said Eunice Schlappi, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's dairy marketing specialist. "We're also looking at other outlets – restaurants, industrial and commercial accounts, and cafeterias in state government buildings."
Walmart is working on a pilot project with Prairie Farms Dairy in Somerset, Ky., which processes the milk, to send Udderly Kentucky to God's Food Pantry. When the milk is close to reaching its expiration date, it is pulled from the shelves and donated to the food pantry in Lexington.
June Dairy Month events on tap
In an effort to spread awareness of the brand during June Dairy Month, Udderly Kentucky will conduct taste tests June 10 when the Lexington Legends professional baseball team hosts Dairy Night. Taste tests will also be done on Dairy Night June 24 with the Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball team and June 21 at the Barren County Ag Festival.
Udderly Kentucky is a trademarked brand that designates milk produced by some 100 Kentucky family dairy farms and processed by Prairie Farms Dairy. Most of those dairy producers are in south-central Kentucky within close proximity to the processing plant and are members of Prairie Farms' dairy cooperative.
As with any new product, Schlappi admitted that "we've had some glitches that we had to work through." But she hasn't lost sight of the goal of the product.
"The biggest thing is the benefit," Schlappi added. "It provides a fresh, local supply of milk to consumers and provides an extra return to our dairy producers."
Udderly Kentucky producers receive a 7-cent premium for every gallon sold.
Three participating Kentucky dairy farm families have been featured in advertising and store marketing materials – Tony Compton of Fairplay in Adair County; Dante Carpenter and his daughter, Elise, from Russell Springs in Russell County; and Patrick Patterson from Nancy in Pulaski County. More Kentucky farmers will be involved in future marketing efforts.
"The consumers have been excited that they can identify a dairy farmer with the milk," Schlappi said. "Some of the dairy farmers have appeared in our advertising, and sales have done the best in areas where those producers live. Consumers say, 'Oh, I know him!'"
The number of dairy producers in Kentucky has declined to 732 dairies, down from 780 last year, but dairy farmer Jeff Deener of Taylor County said now is a good time to be in the dairy business.
"The price has been better the last year and a half, so it [business] is good," Deener said. Although he's not a participant in the Udderly Kentucky program, he added: "I think it's a good thing."
For more information on "Udderly Kentucky," participating farmers, and benefits of the program, visit www.UdderlyKY.com.