Cheese war: State dumps tons of cheddar from defunct Mat-Su dairy

Erik Hill

Thousands of pounds of cheese the state has deemed unfit for human consumption is being tossed into trash bins outside the defunct Matanuska Creamery in Palmer, but the dairy's former CEO and a board member say much of it could have been sold. Bob McFarland of the Alaska Attorney General's Office, which is in charge of liquidating the dairy's assets, tells the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman what he saw of the stored cheddar was "horrible." 

Some cheese was stored in a trailer on the creamery’s property with other cheese that had previously been condemned as having listeria, he said, adding that the product was “obviously” not fit to eat.

“It was very obvious,” McFarland said about the cheese in the trailer. “The Department of Environmental Conservation did come out a couple of times and inspected it. We’ve got photos that would turn your stomach. A lot of it nobody would even touch with at 10-foot pole. ...

"We thought the cheese that was stored in the cooler inside, that a good portion of that would be acceptable. But after looking closer we found mouse droppings around and on the cheese, cheese where mice had burrowed into the cheese.”

Dairy board member and investor Jake Libby calls McFarland's description of the cheese "complete and utter BS."

“Mold makes cheese,” he said, adding that it’s part of the aging process. “When you open up a block, the first thing you do is dump the expelled water — there’s a brine that forms around the cheese — then you shave that portion off the block. News flash, that’s what cheese is. It’s a culture. All cheese has mold until it’s packaged for sale.”

Late last year, the state took over the creamery after it failed to make payments on about $880,000 in state loans. The dairy's remaining machinery and other assets will be auctioned on March 16.

Read more at The Frontiersman: Culture shock: State disposing of nearly 20 tons of Matanuska Creamery cheese