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WSU Creamery employee among first to earn cheese professional certification from American Cheese Society

PULLMAN, Wash. – The WSU Creamery employee Nial Yager is among the first class to earn the Certified Cheese Professionals™ rank from the American Cheese Society (ACS). Yager is one of 121 individuals who passed the inaugural Certified Cheese Professional exam on Aug. 1 in Raleigh, N.C. This group consists of professionals from across the United States and Canada.

Industry experts develop exam

Nial Yager at work making cheese at the WSU Creamery. Photo courtesy WSU.
Nial Yager at work making cheese at the WSU Creamery. Photo courtesy WSU. Click image to download high resolution version.

The Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) exam is the first of its kind. It was established to encourage high standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service for professionals in all areas of the industry. The exam was developed over an eight-year period with more than 100 industry experts working together with credential consultants Knapp International and software provider ExamSoft.

Testing encompasses a broad range of topics including raw ingredients; the cheese making process; storing and handling; selecting distributors; marketing and communicating; nutrition; regulations and sanitation.

From engineering and physics to cheese

“Cheese making is Nial’s forte,” said Russ Salvadalena, manager of the WSU Creamery. “He’s been our go-to guy to answer our cheese-making questions for years. He is one of our senior employees, having started as a student in 1988, so this is an important validation of his knowledge and experience.”

While a student at WSU, Yager studied mechanical engineering and physics but quickly grew enamored of cheese making and has made that his profession.

Beyond years of experience

“I knew quite a bit about the production of the kinds of cheese we make here, but the exam is all-encompassing, so I had to study a lot,” Yager said. “There were questions about cheeses that we don’t make, about handling cheese, about hygiene in production facilities, and about food safety in the retail cheese business. It was a really comprehensive exam on all aspects of the cheese business.”

Yager said he studied for and took the exam in order to add value to courses taught at the Creamery. “We offer short courses on cheese making which attract people from all over the country. So taking the exam deepens our skill level and broadens our knowledge base, so that we can offer our cheese making students a richer experience.”

Yager compared the test to a bar exam for law students, and said that despite his years of experience, he needed to read several books, some incredibly technical, in order to expand his knowledge and meet the demands of the exam.

“I applaud the efforts of all those who displayed their cheese-industry knowledge by passing this exam,” said Nora Weiser, ACS executive director. “The expertise of American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals not only elevates the industry, but also communicates to consumers that a highly knowledgeable and reliable cheese resource is available to them.”

By passing the exam, Yager earned the right to use the title ACS Certified Cheese Professional™ (or ACS CCP™). He also will be required to demonstrate continued participation in the cheese industry and continued professional development to maintain this credential, and will be required to recertify every three years.

Click the following links to learn more about the Certified Cheese Professional exam and the WSU Creamery