Foremost Farms USA to shutter Chilton cheese plant

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
The aging Foremost Farms plant located at W3286 County Road F, Chilton, Wis., was built in the 1940s, and produced provolone cheese for the foodservice industry which was hit hard during the pandemic. The plant is slated for closure this summer.

Foremost Farms USA today announced this week that it plans to shutter its manufacturing facility in Chilton this summer. Company officials cited inefficiencies in the aging cheese plant along with the decreased demand for its product in the food service industry due to the coronavirus for the closure.

While the plant closing will impact the 53 workers at the facility, producers shipping milk to the plant will not be affected.

“Manufacturing footprints continually evolve and change over time as the market changes. We are always reviewing our manufacturing network and looking for ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations,” said Greg Schlafer, President & CEO in a news release. “Closing the facility is difficult for us. But in looking at our operations holistically, we don’t think making long-term investments in the plant make strategic sense for our network.”

The aging plant located at W3286 County Road F, was built in the 1940s, according to the company.

Schafer said the company has other plants with upgraded technology and optimized logistics that will drive significant cost efficiencies.

The cheese processing sector has also been hit hard by the collapse of the foodservice industry during the coronavirus pandemic. The Chilton plant produces Italian cheeses including Provolone which is sold into the foodservice market for sandwiches.

Schlafer said work order volumes from food service clients have decreased in a short period of time creating product over capacity and a sudden production demand drop.

“We don’t see an immediate bounce back in cheese orders from food service clients serviced by the location,” said Schlafer, adding that the closure is not a reflection on the employees at the plant.

"This is a business decision that has nothing to do with their performance, which has been excellent. We are committed to treating our employees with respect and dignity and will be working with them through this transition,” he said. 

The company will be working through the details of a severance package in the coming weeks.