It’s no secret that the Berkey Creamery is one of the most beloved places on campus, with around 650,000 customers visiting each year to indulge in their favorite ice cream flavors and dairy products. But what exactly does it take to make that container of Peachy Paterno sitting in your freezer?
That’s how much raw milk comes through the creamery each year, according to assistant manager James Brown, who manages the Creamery salesroom and assists in over-seeing the dairy plant operation. 2,000,000 pounds goes to processing ice cream, about 2,000,000 pounds goes to beverage milk and 1,000,000 pounds goes to cultured products.
The milk comes from two different places. Brown says that about 75 to 80 percent comes from the dairy barns here on campus, and the other 20 to 25 percent comes from a small brother-owned operation called Hartle Farms in Buffalo Run.
It takes about three to four days to go from cow to cone. Cows are milked up to three times a day and the milk goes straight from the cow to sanitized pipelines right into a holding tank where the milk is chilled to keep it tasting delicious for the dairy products. The milk is then pumped into the creamery’s insulated tank trucks and dropped off at the receiving bay where samples are tested for antibiotics, bacteria and temperature.
The raw milk is then sent to a pasteurizer to kill the bacteria without affecting the nutrient value. Then the milk is sent off to the homogenizer to break down the butterfat. Homogenization is the reason you don’t have to shake your milk every single time you want to drink it.
The final products are then made by adding the cream back into the skim milk at different levels and then cooled and stored, waiting to be sold and distributed on campus.
Of course, milk also goes into making dry ingredients for the ice cream mix. The mix is pumped into flavor vats. This is where all the delicious flavors we drool over are added. The mix is then sent to another vat where all the nuts, chocolate chips and other yummy ingredients in your favorite ice creams are added.
The ice cream then passes through a metal detector, and goes into a container to be labeled, x-rayed, sealed and popped into the freezer until it’s frozen to perfection.
Of the 110+ flavors, the creamery only keeps about 40 flavors on hand. Only 10 or 11 of those are made consistently, such as the favorites: vanilla, chocolate and bittersweet mint.
On a football weekend the creamery can scoop about 10,000 cups and cones, and in a year that number goes up to 500,000. There is so much to know and learn about the largest university creamery in the nation that lives right here on our beautiful campus.
From farm to stomach, the creamery works their hardest to make sure everyone leaves a satisfied customer. So thank you, Penn State cows and creamery workers for allowing us to indulge in our daily cups of Death by Chocolate.
A version of this article was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Valley Magazine.