Wisconsin's Dairy Innovation Is Incredible

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 11 2013 2:14 PM

Wisconsin's Dairy Innovation Is Incredible

More states should follow Wisconsin's lead and use local stereotypes to their own benefit.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I'm plenty wary of playing into the stereotype that my home state's denizens subsist solely on bratwurst, Schlitz Tall Boys, and cheese curds. But I was delighted to see my hometown of Milwaukee considering an innovative and elegant solution to a local infrastructure problem involving two resources it has in abundance: Cold weather and cheese.

As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, my hometown may start using cheese brine to de-ice roads in the winter:

The Public Works Committee will consider on Wednesday a pilot program to determine whether cheese brine — a liquid waste product left over from cheesemaking — can be added to rock salt and applied directly to the street.

Rock salt is widely used because it's cheap and effective, but also corrodes any metal objects it comes in contact with. There's also an environmental hazard of sodium runoff into local watersheds. If found effective, cheese brine and other acidic dairy byproducts (like Greek yogurt's acid whey problem) could become a cheap, natural de-icing alternative.

This isn't the first instance of Wisconsin using stereotypes to its advantage. The state's Dairy Business Innovation Center, which unfortunately shut down last year, partnered with dairy processing plants to make them more efficient:

In addition to helping dairy plants with business plans and equipment or facility issues, the center also assisted them with product development, packaging and label development and marketplace penetration, working in tandem with the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We've seen a boom of ethanol companies in Iowa, so why not encourage other states to find creative ways to make use of their most abundant resources? It's time for those California haters to step up their game.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.


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