WI cheesemakers gear up as state's vaccination efforts move forward

Medical experts say that people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is what it is going to take for everyone to "get back to normal" -- and people in the curd community have a plan to achieve herd immunity.

Thursday, March 25, people in Wisconsin's cheesemaking industry said they're prepared as vaccination efforts ramp up in the Dairy State.

For the better part of the pandemic, essential food producers have been asking: When the vaccine becomes available, when can we get it?

"It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, for sure, through the entire pandemic," said Chauncey Behm of Pine River Pre-Pack. "Done a lot of re-evaluating of our general workplace. And now with vaccinations, with group 1b being the dairy producers, it has been very comforting as the majority of our staff has gone and gotten vaccinated."  

For those in the business of getting cheesy, the answer is now.

"For us as a small business, a COVID outbreak here for our 30 employees means us being able to make cheese spread or not make cheese spread," Behm said.

Pine River Pre-Pack

The folks at Pine River, a producer of spreadable cheeses, say the vaccine is employees' top priority.

"Encouraged them to do it during work hours so they could be paid to travel to Walgreens to get their vaccination and back so that we could make it easy on them. And not add another thing for them to do at home after work," said Behm.

Sargento Foods

Even bigger cheese producers, like Sargento Foods, are reporting major initiatives to achieve herd immunity.

"We’re fortunate in all of our facilities to have an on-site health and wellness center," said Louie Gentine with Sargento. "We were approved through the administrator of those health and wellness centers to be able to give doses of the vaccine right on sight.

"We’re working closely with Meijer, the retail chain Meijer, through their pharmacy network to do an on-site mass vaccination."

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The move will help more than half-a-dozen food production companies located in the Sheboygan County area to get their vaccine, too.

Both companies expressed excitement for vaccines becoming available so more people can get their shot.

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