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Leprino Foods Company focuses on technology, sustainability

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 11 June 2020
Leprino Foods’ facility at Greeley, Colorado

Three farms – Twin Birch Dairy of New York; Threemile Canyon Farms, of Boardman, Oregon; and Rosy-Lane Holsteins LLC of Watertown, Wisconsin – were recipients of Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability awards.

In addition to the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability honorees, Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership were recognized for Outstanding Dairy Supply Chain Collaboration, Sustainable Conservation was recognized for Outstanding Community Impact and Leprino Foods was recognized for Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability.

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Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability
Leprino Foods Company, Greeley, Colorado

As one of the world’s largest producers of mozzarella cheese, lactose, whey protein and sweet whey, Leprino Foods Company operates nine U.S.-based manufacturing facilities in five states. The company’s newest plant is located along the Poudre River in Greeley, Colorado.

With a footprint covering approximately 1.26 million square feet, the facility is a model of technology and sustainability. It has about 375 rooms and approximately 150 miles of stainless-steel pipe. The plant employs more than 475 people and receives nearly 8 million pounds of milk per day.

Sustainability has been a driving force behind the facility even before construction began in 2010 on the site of an abandoned sugar processing facility.

Seeking to be stewards of natural, human and economic resources, the company took a holistic view, assessing the plant’s surroundings and environment, evaluating the products and processes to be installed, and exploring all available technologies. The solutions not only had to work well in stand-alone applications but also had to be complementary to other systems within the overall site while keeping open a pathway toward the development of step-change technologies critical to future innovation.

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The company’s approach recognizes that while sustainability projects don’t always have high short-term returns, they almost always maintain good returns for many years beyond the typical financial planning horizon. It also recognizes that just because intangible benefits may not have a known return, the return is certainly greater than zero.

  • Power. With power reliability and cost a concern, the Leprino plant’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system consists of two jet engines strapped to the ground and connected to electrical generators and steam boilers. The cleaner electricity replaces the carbon-intense power sourced from the Colorado grid and is forecast to reduce the entire company’s GHG emissions by 10%, not just those of the Greeley facility.

  • Water. The company not only recognized the current value of water but considered its future scarcity and price as well as strict discharge quality and quantity requirements. Its recycling, filtration and disinfection processes mean very little water is truly used and, with additional water coming from the processed milk, the Leprino plant returns 30% more treated and temperature-corrected water to the Cache La Poudre River than it takes in from the municipal system. The systems are monitored and measured continuously to ensure not only environmental success but food safety and quality as well.

  • Lighting. Seeking to enhance safety and sustainability, Leprino upgraded 5,500 fixtures with new light-emitting diode (LED) lights, saving 5.5 million kilowatt hours per year, plus the associated maintenance costs. The LEDs also last much longer than conventional bulbs and are not hazardous when spent. Existing ballasts were modified for these new fixtures to create a sanitary solution that was easier to install.

  • Biosolids. The wastewater solids digester is a unique application of widely used anaerobic digester technology. Its success is measured by the volume of biogas generated and used in the co-generation engine to provide approximately 25% of the electricity for the treatment plant and all the heat necessary for the digester. Reducing solid waste volume by 40% means that there are fewer trucks, less diesel fuel, emissions, traffic and noise associated with hauling the biosolids away.

Leprino’s sustainability efforts don’t end there. Last fall, the company took delivery of 50 refrigerated rail cars specifically designed for its pallets and products. As a result of this one-of-a-kind innovative private refrigerated rail fleet, the company will save 164 truckloads, 40 railcar loads and 2.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

Each operational component has its own specific metrics, which are included in daily reports reviewed by plant personnel to provide actionable information every day.

The innovative Greeley facility highlights the company’s sustainability focus by fulfilling environmental, economic and social responsibilities and serves as a model for other Leprino Foods facilities. Communicating the learnings and results, both internally and externally, have been aided by a video, and the company is willing to share details about the equipment or installation techniques with peers to ensure the long-term viability of the dairy industry as a whole. end mark

PHOTO: Leprino Foods’ facility at Greeley, Colorado, incorporates sustainability measures to produce and conserve electricity, conserve and improve water quality, and treats biosolids to minimize waste. Courtesy photo.

Dave Natzke
  • Dave Natzke

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