Sainsbury’s Visit 2009


Some 22 school students recently had a unique insight into how award winning cheese is made and marketed in the South West thanks to a collaboration between Milk Link, the farmer owned dairy products business, and Sainsbury’s. The GCSE students from St Wilfrids School, Exeter followed the production process from seeing cows being milked, to the cheese being made, through to how it is displayed and marketed to consumers in stores. The initiative is one of a number being held by Sainsbury’s in the South West to help children: learn about where their food comes from; understand how to achieve a healthy and balanced diet; and celebrate the fact that in the South West we are blessed with some of the finest fresh produce and highest quality food manufacturers.

The day started with a visit to Higher Brenton Farm, Kennford near Exeter where Milk Link Members Robert and Edward Mortimer explained to the students the various aspects of successful dairy farming. This included learning about breeding, feed regimes and the Mortimer’s dedication to animal welfare and milk quality. However, the undoubted highlight for the students was seeing six of their 100 strong herd of pedigree Holstein Friesian cows being milked.

The students then travelled on to visit Milk Link’s Taw Valley Creamery in North Tawton to see how the Mortimer’s milk was being transformed into award winning cheese. The students were given a presentation on how cheese is made and matured, toured the creamery and were given an opportunity to taste the final product with help from an experienced cheese grader. Tim Kitchen, Production Manager at Taw Valley, was impressed by the level of knowledge and interest shown by those on the tour, “The students were clearly impressed by the scale of the creamery and the complexity that is involved in making cheese of the range and quality produced at Taw Valley. We were delighted with the knowledge and enthusiasm shown by the students and were pleased we could give them an insight into the art of cheese making.”

The last part of the day saw the students visit one of the largest Sainsbury’s stores in the South West at Alphington on the outskirts of Exeter. Here they were able to go behind the scenes to see how the cheese made at Taw Valley is transported to the supermarket, stored to maintain it in the very best condition and then displayed in the chilled cabinets and on the delli counter for customers to buy. Finally, to complete ‘the farm gate to plate’ experience the students were able to taste a number of dishes made with the cheese. Adey Hutchins Sainsbury’s Community Food & Health Adviser was delighted by the response of the students to the day “Sainsbury’s believe it is important to support British food and farming at a national, regional and local level. Today’s event has once again reinforced how lucky we are in the South West to have such high quality food produced on our doorstep. At the same time we are also committed to working with schools to improve young people’s understanding of where their food comes from and today’s tour has really given us the opportunity to tell the story behind the product which ultimately goes into the shopping trolley.”

Commenting on the whole day Yvonne Mackey, Head of Home Economics at St Wilfrids said, “This is has been a fantastic experience for our year 10 and 11 students who are taking GCSEs in either Food & Nutrition or Biology. Seeing at first hand the whole process of making cheese, all the way from the cows in the milking parlour to the block of cheese being picked up off the shelf in store has been fascinating and something that could never be replicated in the classroom.”

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