When I buy cheese, I imagine the animals responsible for the milk in that cheese are out on a farm somewhere, spending their days in a field of green with other milk-producing mammals. For patrons of Milwaukee’s Clock Shadow Creamery, however, some of the milk in their cheese comes from cows who spend their days around children and live in close quarters with lions, elephants, and camels. These cows are residents of the Milwaukee County Zoo.
The partnership between Milwaukee’s only urban creamery and the nearby zoo brings local to a whole new level. Milwaukee County Zoo is one of two zoos in North America that sells their cow’s milk—and one of the few zoos that have cows to begin with. Three cows—Maddy, Katie, and Pearl—are on milk duty, producing 150 pounds of milk per day, enough to make fifteen pounds of cheese. The milk is picked up twice a week by the creamery, where it is mixed with milk from full-on dairy farms to become ricotta, cheese curds, and quark.
Clock Shadow Creamery was opened in 2012 by the owner of Cedar Grove Cheese, one the oldest cheesemakers in Wisconsin. The young creamery is committed to maintaining an environmentally friendly presence and benefiting the local community. It’s housed on the first floor of a building with a low environmental impact just a few blocks from the famous Allen-Bradley clock tower, giving the creamery its name.
The Milwaukee County Zoo has been selling its milk since opening in 1987. They began working with Clock Shadow Creamery last year, after their previous buyer was unable to continue sending a hauler for the comparatively little milk they sourced from the zoo. Lisa Guglielmi, the area supervisor of the zoo’s dairy complex, reached out to the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, and was eventually led to Clock Shadow. The zoo makes up a minority of the creamery’s milk, but the geographic closeness of the two make it a worthwhile relationship.
“I think it’s great the milk has some place to go and I can actually go somewhere to buy the cheese,” Guglielmi told the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. “Even though we’re still a drop in the bucket, I think it’s neat that we can see where the milk from the zoo cows is going.”
Feature Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal