What is a Dairy Plant?

Minnesota law defines a dairy plant as “any place where a dairy product is manufactured, processed, or handled and 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 and other establishments, as those terms are used in this chapter and chapters 17, 27, and 31; but does not include any place where dairy products are not processed but sole at wholesale or retail only.”  Minnesota Statute 32D.01 Subd. 6

Licensing and Permitting of Dairy Plants

Dairy plants are regulated by the MDA’s Division of Meat and Dairy Inspection. Dairy plants are required to have both a license and a permit to legally operate in Minnesota. Minnesota Statute 32D.09 Subd. 1 and 2   

Minnesota law requires anyone engaged “in the business of manufacturing, processing, selling, handling or storing food” be licensed by the MDA.  Minnesota Statute 28A.04

In addition to a license, dairy plants must also have a permit. In order 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:

  • 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, and
  • location of the plumbing system, including waste disposal.

New construction or alteration of an existing dairy plant must also be reviewed approved by the MDA prior to beginning construction.  The fee for review and approval services is $45 per hour of staff time spent on process.  Minnesota Statute 32D.09 Subd. 3

Contact the MDA DMID for further information.

Minnesota Farmstead Cheese

Minnesota Farmstead Cheese is cheese manufactured in Minnesota on the same farm that the milk used in its manufacturing is produced. Minnesota Statute 32D. Minnesota Statute section 32D.01 subd. 13.  Dairy plants that wish to use the Minnesota Farmstead Cheese designation may apply for a Minnesota Farmstead Cheese permit.  Minnesota Statute 32D.09 subd. 4   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.  

More information about starting an on-farm processing plant and obtaining a farmstead cheese permit can be found in the On-Farm Processing: Getting Started booklet available from MDA DMID.

Dairy Plant Inspections

All licensed and permitted dairy plants are routinely inspected by MDA dairy inspectors. The dairy plant inspection process includes examination of production areas and processing equipment, testing pasteurizers, and taking samples. Inspections help ensure the quality and safety of the dairy supply.