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A Salute to “Cheese University”

Posted by | August 2, 2010

Butch enjoying a can of Cougar Gold.During the 1980s and 1990s, WSU was commonly referred to as “Quarterback U” as a result of the on-field exploits of folks like Jack Thompson, Mark Rypien, and Drew Bledsoe. As we await a return to Cougar glory on the gridiron, we may need another tag line. Recently the WSU Creamery was featured on the Travel Channel, and WSU was tagged “Cheese University” by the host — a fitting tag for the university with the most popular and award-winning cheese among American universities.

The following excerpt from the feature tells the story of Cougar Gold cheese:

“Well, try this one on for size, canned cheese. That’s right, canned cheese, and there’s only one place in the entire country that makes it. Travel one hour south of Spokane, Washington, and you’ll come to the town of Pullman, home of Washington State University. This campus boasts one of the best food science and agricultural programs in the country… When the canning idea came about, they were packaging cheese mostly by dipping it in wax to keep it from molding. And the wax would crack and whatever, so they couldn’t really do a lot of shipping of the cheese. In the 1930s, WSU professor Dr. Norman Golding tried to find a way to vacuum-pack cheese in tins for the U.S. Army. Because cheese produces carbon dioxide, the cans would bulge and often explode. Dr. Golding was going through and looking for bacteria that would grow cheese or make cheese that didn’t produce gas. That unique flavor turned out to be the recipe for Cougar Gold cheese, and in the 50 years since Dr. Golding perfected it, the packaging and recipe have not changed.”

Congratulations to Russ Salvadalena, our Creamery manager, and all of the Ferdinand’s staff. The Creamery currently produces 280,000 cans of cheese each year, 80 percent of which is Cougar Gold. In addition, over 12,000 gallons of ice cream (20 flavors in all!) are produced and sold annually through Ferdinand’s and other locations. Most importantly, the Creamery operation provides an outstanding real-world learning experience for nearly 100 student employees each year.

Go Cougs,
Dan Bernardo