Yes, my father’s modest two-bedroom ranch will soon be electrified by methane gas created from goat cheese whey. I’m already envisioning the conversation possibilities the next time I visit. It’s going to be awesome.
Why goat gas? Because Montchevre-Betin, one of the largest goat cheese plants in the nation, is about to debut a new $3.5 million anaerobic digester in Belmont, population 914. The digester – the first one installed at a goat cheese factory in America — will break down whey and wastewater from the cheese plant to create methane gas, which will then be captured and sent to a generator and converted into electricity.
This is no small deal for southwestern Wisconsin. Montchevre is one of the largest employers in the area, employing about 150 people. Last year, it processed about 50 million pounds of goat milk from 300 dairy farms throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, southern Minnesota and Missouri into 8 million pounds of goat cheese. Company vice president and cheesemaker Jean Rossard says the market for goat cheese is only growing, and Montchevre will grow with it.
The digester project is adding 22,000 feet to the 90,000-square-foot-plant, which has undergone several additions and remodeling sessions since I lived there. Today, Montchevre is a respected goat cheese manufacturer with products in most supermarkets across the country. It makes everything from goat milk cheddar to feta to goat cheese logs. And now, it can add electricity to its list.