In one of I think the most exciting developments in the past five years, Wisconsin’s largest cheese cooperative — which by the way has produced nothing but millions of pounds of commodity cheese for more than 100 years — announced this week it has released a new, seasonal “Pasture-Grazed White Cheddar Cheese.”

Made from milk produced by family farmers in Southwest Wisconsin, the new “Signature Edition” from the Alto Dairy Black Creek plant will be available only in season from late April through early October, based on pasture quality.

“The pasture grazed product has a unique flavor profile and rich, creamy texture,” says Black Creek Master Cheesemaker Gregg Palubicki. “We’re very proud of its delicate, natural flavor as well as the superior nutritional value of the pasture-grazed milk we use in crafting it.”

For those of you in the artisan cheese world, this is no big deal. For those of us born in Wisconsin and raised on Velveeta, this is huge. THE biggest cooperative in Wisconsin is now making a pasture-grazed cheese.

Wow. We’ve officially arrived.

According to the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, pasture-grazed milk contains higher amounts of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, flavenoids/antioxidants and more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Why do we care?

Because research from Dr. Michael Pariza conducted in 2000 indicates CLA may increase metabolic rate, may help decrease abdominal fat, may enhance muscle growth, helps maintain normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, helps maintain normal insulin levels, helps make it easier to control weight, and enhances the immune system.

Good news for those of us who are on a diet. Bring on the pasture-grazed cheese and Diet Coke.

As Karen Endres, Black Creek’s Director of Communications, says: “It’s just plain good and good for you.”

With the growth in consumer demand for naturally sourced food products, the introduction of Black Creek Pasture-Grazed Natural Cheese is clearly responding to the market. We know people want to know where their food comes from and they want it fresh and healthy.

Alto’s Pasture-Grazed product is putting that package all together.

Available in 9-ounce squares in a white parchment-like package, distribution of the pasture-grazed cheese will be through specialty cheese retailers and the specialty cheese and deli departments in grocery stores.

Can’t wait to find it in a store near me.