DRESSER, Wisc. (KARE) - Wisconsinites embrace winter almost as much as they
love their cheese. It was only a matter of time until someone combined
"Only in Wisconsin," laughs Polk County plow driver Kevin
Jensen. A flip of a switch and his truck starts dispensing a mix of
salt and cheese brine, straight from a local dairy plant.
gotten ribbing from other counties," admits Moe Norby, the Polk County
Highway Department technical support manager who came up with the idea.
contacted F & A Dairy Products in Dresser which bathes its
mozzarella and provolone cheeses in tanks of brine. Norby figured the
same salt water that gives cheese its flavor could help clear icy
highways too. He was right.
"It actually worked better for us at
lower temperatures than regular salt brine. We believe because the
organics in the product help it not freeze at lower temperatures," Norby
Norby says the brine is odorless once it's applied to a
highway, though Jensen appreciates its bouquet while filling his tank.
"It smells like cheese," he says, which suits him just fine. "I'm from
Wisconsin, of course I like cheese."
Or maybe it's the smell of
money. Polk County estimated its first year saving from cheese brine at
$40,000. More cheese brine means less salt and fewer other de-icing
chemicals have to be used on county roads.
The cheese factory,
which gives the brine to the county, is saving money too. Chuck
Engdahl, the plant's waste water manager, estimates annual savings as
high as $25,000 due to brine no longer being transported to Superior for
The Wisconsin DNR issued a permit to F & A before
it could begin diverting its brine for highway use. Barron County is
now also regularly picking up cheese brine, as are a couple of towns.
Milwaukee Public Works Department sent a truck to Dresser to pick up
600 gallons of cheese brine for a pilot project being run in the city.
Early results have been favorable, according to a public works
Meantime, F & A has taken on a bit of celebrity
status. The New York Times called this week and CNN was recently at the
plant taking pictures of its ice-fighting brine.
"It's kind of nice to be known for that too," smiled Mike Breault, the cheese plant's manager. "It's a win, win."
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