In an era when many small dairies in the U.S. are struggling to survive, the Mauthe Progress Dairy Barn located near McComb in southwest Mississippi is thriving by bringing back old-fashioned ways including selling milk in glass bottles that are reused and producing a type of cheese indigenous to New Orleans that was extinct before the Mauthes family revived it in 2001.
While glass bottles cost more, the Mauthes consider it worth it. They sell 500 to 600 gallons in glass jars per week.
“That is 500 to 600 plastic jugs that are not going into a landfill somewhere,” Kenny Mauthe said. “People will tell you milk in glass jars tastes better, as well. It keeps better. It stays colder.”
They also sell milk in BPA-free plastic jugs. Again, that costs more, but they feel it is the right thing to do.
“Our grandchildren all drink this milk,” Mauthe said.
While it is not certified organic, the dairy follows organic practices such as using natural fertilizers including fish emulsion fertilizer, poultry litter and waste whey from the cheese making to fertilize pastures.
Recently the Mauthe’s efforts to go down the natural dairying path lead to them winning the Green American People & Planet Green Business Award that carries a cash prize of $5,000 to each of the three national winners. The Mauthes are using the award money to purchase an irrigator to pump wastewater out of the lagoon to irrigate and fertilize their pastures.
“We’re thinking from now on we are pretty much going to be able to use that and whey for our source of fertilization for our pastures,” Mauthe said. “We have a total of 50 acres here. We were trying to figure out an irrigation system for a small amount of land feasibly priced and found a stationary unit from Alfa Ag that we will move with a tractor or truck. This is the right thing to do environmentally. We want to be self-sustainable as much as possible so we don’t have to purchase our chemicals.”
While many consumers are familiar with the term grass-fed, and the health advantages of grass-fed meat including higher rates of omega-3 fatty acids that are are good for the heart, some grain feeding is helpful for milk production.
“With the genetics the cows have today, we have to feed some grain to have a healthy cow,” Jamie Mauthe said. “Genetically, they are made to produce a lot of milk. A dairy cow needs some grain to keep her in good body condition. We do feed a small amount of grain while we milk, and the rest is grass.”
The dairy makes value-added products such as yogurt and cheese, including their signature Creole cream cheese that was no longer being made until the Mauthe family revived the tradition.
“It used to be called old-fashioned clabber, Mauthe said. “We sell it, and we also make cheesecakes out of it. It is a soft, white cheese that has the heavy cream poured back on top of it. The Creoles made it famous in the 1800s before refrigeration, and would sell it in the French Quarter.”
Kenny Mauthe’s family started dairying in New Orleans in the 1930s in the lower Ninth Ward, and sold Creole cream cheese. The Mauthe dairy moved north to Folsom, La., in the 1950s, a dairy still operated by Mauthe’s dad, Henry Mauthe. In the 1980s, Jamie and Kenny Mauthe moved 45 miles to McComb to begin dairying there.
Their quest to bring back the Creole cream cheese got a big lift when the Slow Food International Chapter of New Orleans did an article on them. Prior to the article, they were selling 100 packages of Creole cream cheese per market day in New Orleans. After the article came out, they sold 500 in 45 minutes.
“Now we are in 36 grocery stores in the New Orleans area,” Jamie said. “Kenny’s dad buys his milk from us and processes it at his facility in Folsom. He sells 600 per week in Louisiana and we are selling about 800 a week in Mississippi.”
The Mauthes sell products at farmer’s markets in New Orleans and Covington, La., and McComb and Jackson. They are currently also the largest vendor for the Good Egg food buying club, and also sell through Hollygrove Farm and Markets, a storefront grocery story in New Orleans that sources products from farmers within a 200-mile radius. Another good outlet for them is the Beaverdam Fresh Farms buying club based out of Starkville, which also sources from local producers.
Currently the Mauthes milk 36 cows, and every bit of the milk is processed. The business has been doing so well they have been able to bring both of their daughters into the operation. Sarah Tullos, 32, is in charge of the cheesecake business, and Katie Cutrer, 30, is head of processing.
“We all kind of wear every hat here,” Mauthe said. “We all milk. We all go to farmers markets. We all do delivering.”
Other fresh cheeses they make include a farmhouse cheddar and a spreadable cheese, fromage blanc. Their whole milk yogurt is also popular, especially as it is difficult to find whole milk yogurt, and any kind of yogurt, that is not loaded with sugar.
Kenny, the head cheesemaker, started learning the business in 2001 working with a professor who headed the dairy science department at Louisiana State University. He also got help from a “secret ingredient”…a woman who has provided expert consultation that has helped them with production problems.
“Cheese-making can be challenging and she has helped us more than once,” he said.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info