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Mozzarella, Cheese Curds, Great Queso

Sustainable dairy farming at Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese

Jul. 25, 2017
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The Crave brothers—George, Charlie, Thomas and Mark—have dairy farming in their blood. The siblings grew up on a 40-cow dairy farm near Beloit, Wis. As adults, they carried on their father’s passion for farming, eventually purchasing their own farm in 1980 in Waterloo, Wis. While considering ways to grow business, George thought that cheese making would be the next logical step for a dairy farm, and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese formed in 2001.

Today Crave Brothers Farm has 1,900 cows on 2,500 acres. Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese is located across the road. George is president and licensed cheese maker, and his wife, Debbie, is vice president. Their nephews and a niece also work for the business. “We are truly a family business and happy to have the next generation involved,” Debbie said.

Crave Brothers Farm grows their own crops for feed. The farm uses sustainable practices including a bio digester that turns manure into renewable energy. They partner with brewers and millers to use byproduct grains for cattle feed. “Farmers are the original recyclers,” George commented.

The milk is piped straight from the cows over to the cheese factory, where it’s crafted into fresh mozzarella, mascarpone, Queso Oaxaca and cheese curds. The process of cheese making took diligent study and connecting with others in the know. “We have a lot of great resources here in The Dairy State, and we used all those resources to put this together,” George said. Despite being a larger operation, Crave Brothers uses many hands-on, artisan methods throughout the cheese-making process.

Crave Brothers’ signature fresh mozzarella placed first, second and third in the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest this past March. “What’s fun about our mozzarella is that we make all different sizes,” Debbie remarked. Their eight-ounce retail and foodservice tubs come in perline (pearl size), ciliegine (cherry size), ovoline (egg size) and medallion-shaped. They also offer fresh mozzarella in a Mediterranean-seasoned marinate, which George said is popular at many restaurants’ olive bars. 

Fresh mozzarella was once a summer foodie trend, particularly for caprese salad, but more fresh mozzarella recipes are appearing in food magazines. “As an alternative to caprese, we promote fresh mozzarella, strawberries and mint. People are getting new ideas for ways to use the cheese all year long,” Debbie said.

The mascarpone is a sweet cream, non-cultured cheese that’s a more versatile, gourmet version of cream cheese, and good in sweet and savory dishes. Their jalapeño cheddar cheese curds placed first in the natural snack cheese category at the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. Crave also makes Farmer’s Rope, a handmade deli-style string cheese.

Crave Brothers has recently won the Wisconsin Family Business of the Year award in the medium-sized company category. The award recognizes contributions the family business makes to its community and industry; positive links between family and business; and its innovative practices.

“It really is an incredible accomplishment to be recognized by our peers,” said Charlie Crave. “Many people in our society appreciate the efforts of farmers and food production, and we have substantial involvement in our family and in the industry.” Crave Brothers is involved with the 4-H Club, as well as local and national agriculture initiatives and university programs.

Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese can be found at Whole Foods and Woodman’s. It will soon be available at many Pick ’n Save locations. 

For more information and recipes, visit cravecheese.com.

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