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What is a Dairy Plant?

According to Minnesota law, a dairy plant is any place where a dairy product is manufactured, processed, or handled. This includes milk-receiving stations, creameries, cheese factories, condenseries, milk plants, transfer stations, and marketing organizations that purchase milk and cream directly from producers for resale. It does not include places where dairy products are not processed but sold wholesale or retail only. Every load of milk destined for a dairy plant must be tested for antibiotic residues prior to being unloaded at the plant.

Starting a Minnesota Dairy Plant

Whether you are interested in bottling milk or making another type of dairy product such as cheese, butter, ice cream, or yogurt, it is important to consult with MDA dairy inspection staff as you plan to start up a dairy processing plant. You can contact Michaela Gadient to inquire about starting a new plant. The Starting and Operating a Small Dairy Processing Plant guide includes information and resources you'll need from the early planning stages through the final completion of your own dairy plant.

All dairy plants must be approved, with both a license and a permit, before beginning operations. The cost of a Dairy Plant License is dependent on expected gross sales and is billed annually. To receive a permit, the plant’s equipment, water supply, and plumbing system must first be reviewed and approved by the MDA. A permit application must include the following:

  • Duplicate floor plans of the plant showing the placement of equipment
  • Source of the water supply and how it is distributed
  • Detailed pasteurization flow chart
  • Location of the plumbing system, including waste disposal

New construction or alteration of an existing facility, including space leased in a shared commercial kitchen, must also be reviewed and approved by the MDA prior to beginning construction or use of the shared space for processing dairy products. The fee for these services is $45 per hour of staff time spent on the review.

Minnesota Farmstead Cheese

Minnesota Farmstead Cheese is cheese manufactured in Minnesota on the same farm that the milk used in its manufacturing is produced. Use of the Minnesota Farmstead Cheese designation is limited to dairy plants with a Minnesota Farmstead Cheese permit whose cheese meets the definition of Minnesota Farmstead Cheese. The Farmstead Cheese License costs $30 and is billed annually. The Safe Cheesemaking Hub is a compendium of food safety resources selected and organized for cheese makers.

Ice Cream and Frozen Dairy Desserts

Ice cream manufacturing has become quite popular in Minnesota. The Safe Ice Cream Hub is a one stop portal providing ice cream manufacturers with easy access to food safety information, training, and support.

Dairy Plant Inspections

All licensed and permitted dairy plants are routinely inspected by MDA dairy inspectors. Plant inspections include examination of production areas and processing equipment, testing pasteurizers, and taking samples. Minnesota dairy processors must pay fees for inspections, as well as for licensing and other activities. Current fee types and amounts can be found at Dairy Processor Fees.


The following videos give a glimpse into the dairy plant inspection process and how it helps ensure the quality and safety of the dairy supply.