The Dairy Industry

The dairy processing industry employs over 23,000 Canadians in close to 475 production facilities across the country. It is a $17.7 billion a year industry, which accounts for close to 16% of the total shipments in the Canadian food manufacturing industry. The dairy industry as a whole—including both processors and dairy farmers—is the largest of the Canadian supply managed sectors.

There are several steps to starting in the dairy processing industry. First, as a food manufacturer, if you are selling interprovincially or internationally, you will need to register with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. To obtain milk, you will need to contact your provincial dairy marketing board.

Dairy products imported into Canada are subject to the controls under Canada’s Export and Import Permits Act which is managed by Global Affairs Canada. For more information, please refer to the Global Affairs Canada website.

In some countries, including the United States and a number in the European Union, the production of dairy is subsidized by government. This is not the case in Canada.

Rather, the Canadian dairy industry is supply managed: a regulatory policy which ensures supply does not exceed demand. It means that Canadian dairy producers are provided with a stable income, dairy processors always have a reliable source of milk, and consumers can expect relatively stable prices at the grocery store regardless of season. Critics of supply management claim that consumers do not get a comparable price for their dairy products to those in the United States.

Dairy Processing

The Canadian Dairy Commission Dairy Ingredients Information Library provides searchable information on Canadian dairy processors and their products.

Legend has it that the first cheese was accidentally made by a traveler carrying milk in a canteen made from an animal stomach. The bacteria in the stomach caused the milk to ripen into something similar to cheese. While the steps involved in cheese making have evolved to support larger-scale production (and modern food safety practices) they are still based on the same principles employed in early cheese making.

1 – Curdling.

Milk is heated and bacteria cultures and enzymes are added to help with clotting and the separation of liquid (whey) and solids (curd). This produces a thick, custard-like product.


2 – Cooking.

The product is then cut and temperature treated again to develop the curds. The size of the curds, the stirring and the temperatures used will determine what type of cheese is produced. In general, large curds, gently stirred and processed at lower temperatures create soft cheeses like brie or ricotta, while smaller curds, more aggressively stirred and processed at higher temperatures create harder cheeses like asiago and parmesan.


3 – Draining and Pressing.

The whey is drained from the curds which are then pressed into formation using its own or added weight. This process helps determine the internal structure of the cheeses and also helps eliminate any remaining whey.


4 – Ripening.

Formed cheese that is not immediately vacuum sealed after brining, is then stored in a temperature-controlled room for a varying length of time (weeks to years).

Before this happens, the cheesemaker may add other ingredients, such as lipases, calcium chloride, penicillium, etc. or apply additional procedures such as homogenizing the milk, washing the rind of the cheese, or wrapping in wax. Some cheeses skip the ripening step and are cooked in hot whey and stretched before they are placed into moulds (i.e., mozzarella and bocconcini).

Over 1,000 different types of cheese are produced in Canada; the flavor and texture of each is determined by a number of things: the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep, etc.), the level of moisture, the type of bacteria or mold added, etc.

Interested in finding out more about cheese making technology? Take a look at this ebook produced by the University of Guelph Food Sciences Department.

The Ice Cream Story

Every ice cream begins its journey from the base mix. Most ice cream base mixes are made using a combination of cream or milk, sugar, milk powders, sometimes eggs and sometimes cocoa powder. These ingredients are blended together with stabilizers that help to give a smooth texture and prevent ice crystals in the finished product. The blended mixture is pasteurized (the cooking process) and homogenised (the fat globule break down process) and then pumped to refrigerated holding tanks for “aging” (this process helps all the ingredients to intermingle and improves the texture of ice cream).

The cooled mix is drawn into flavour vats, where flavours and colours are added. This flavoured mix moves to the freezer (Ice cream freezers consist of a barrel with revolving blades inside that incorporates air and further cools the mix ), the ice cream that comes out of the freezer is what is generally called “soft serve ice cream”. At this point all additional ingredients (the fun stuff like chocolate chunks, fruit pieces and nuts) are added to the frozen mix through equipment called a “fruit feeder”. The swirls of marshmallow, butterscotch, chocolate and everything gooey (called a “variegate “in ice cream terms) goes into the ice cream stream as it is packaged in tubs. These tubs now begin the “hardening” process. Once hardened they are stored in freezers (-28 oC ) till they are tested and released by our quality team (ready to ship).

Interested in finding out more about ice cream production? Check out this ebook produced by the University of Guelph Food Sciences Department.

Butter is made from pasteurized cream with a fat content of at least 35% (more desired level is 40%+). The cream is held and allowed to crystalize before being sent to the “butter” churn. In the churning process the cream is violently agitated to break down the fat globules, causing the fat to coagulate into butter grains, while the fat content of the remaining liquid, called buttermilk, decreases. Typically salt is added during the process to enhance its flavour and preserve shelf life. Butter by definition has minimum 80% fat with increasing fat levels depending on the desired product. Unsalted or Cultured butter typically have a higher fat level of 82% or even higher.

To make yogurt, milk is fermented with the use of bacteria which are sometimes referred to as “starter cultures”. The curdling is performed by the combined action of two traditional fermenting agents that produce the lactic acid and the components that determine the yogurt’s characteristic flavour: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. In Canada, a product must contain these two specific bacterial strains to bear the name “yogurt”. Additional ingredients and friendly bacteria may be added to obtain specific texture or specific characteristic. The natural unsweetened yogurt is then ready to be consumed or to be mixed with any flavoring ingredients such as vanilla, sweeteners, fruits etc.

Dairy Ingredients

Derived from seaweed, carrageenan is a food additive used for many purposes, including stabilizing, emulsifying, or thickening a product. This helps the texture and thickness of a number of products, including sour cream, cream cheese, ice cream, and cottage cheese, among others. Its use is regulated by Health Canada.

To prevent clumping, shredded cheese is shaken with cellulose prior to packaging. Cellulose derived from plants and is one of several food additives called “anticaking agents” which ensure the quality of products available to consumers. Their use is regulated by Health Canada.

Recently, some have referred to ultra-filtered milk as “diafiltered” milk. The ultrafiltration of milk is a process that separates the components by passing milk across a membrane, separating lactose and water from casein and whey proteins.

This process has been used in many countries for a number of years, but is relatively new to Canada. This innovation offers several benefits. In cheese making it can increase process efficiencies, reduce costs, provide better compositional and quality controls, and improve yields. In some countries, ultrafiltration is used to create low-carb dairy products.