Elmbrook, other area school districts select new milk distributor
Prairie Farms Dairy to supply 13 area school districts with milk next fall
The Elmbrook School District took a page from the State Fair last month when it hosted a judged taste test to select the best milk to offer its more than 7,000 students. Instead of handing out a blue ribbon, administrators awarded the winner a nearly $1 million contract.
Elmbrook and representatives from 12 other school districts in southeastern Wisconsin - all part of a cooperative formed to secure cheaper meal prices - awarded a $969,000 multidistrict milk contract to an Illinois-based dairy cooperative, even though the dairy came in at the highest bid by a margin of roughly $35,000.
Prairie Farms Dairy, based in Carlinville, Ill., beat out Dean Foods Co. and Kemps for the contract to supply milk next fall to schools in East Troy, Elmbrook, Franklin, Germantown, Greendale, Greenfield, Herman, Kettle Moraine, Lomira, Menomonee Falls, Mukwonago, New Berlin and South Milwaukee.
Comparing prices, taste
The school districts put out a request for price proposals and Prairie Farms' bid of $969,148 was the highest. Kemps put in a bid of $942,387 and Dean a bid of $934,683.
In late March, representatives from each of the 13 members in the district cooperative met at Elmbrook's Central Administrative Office to hear a short presentation from each of the milk suppliers, then participated in a blind taste test of several milk flavors.
The districts developed a point system and evaluated each of the proposals on price, taste, nutritional value, service, hauling and the ability of the supplier to provide a variety of flavors and package sizes.
Prairie Farms scored 81.5 points in its bid for the annual contract, Kemps scored 68.5, and Dean scored 37.5, Elmbrook officials said.
Desperate for dairy
Elmbrook and many other area districts were left scrambling for milk when Waukesha-based Golden Guernsey Dairy closed suddenly in January and filed for bankruptcy. The company had been providing milk to Elmbrook for six years.
Cheryl Peil, Elmbrook School District food and nutrition director, appreciated that Kemps stepped in, but many students were dissatisfied with the flavor, especially of its chocolate milk.
Parents complained and there were even a few boycotts, Peil said. Milk consumption throughout the district dropped nearly 25 percent after Kemps stepped in to fill the void.
"We have dropped about 1,000 milks a day districtwide," Peil said. "It's like anything else - the quality has to be there. You wouldn't go to the same restaurant if you didn't like the food. The milk has to taste good."
The contract is for the 2013-14 school year with a three-year renewal option, and Elmbrook will contribute roughly $145,350 toward the total contract.
Peil said the district has received some objections about choosing a non-local dairy, but added that Prairie Farms buys milk from Wisconsin farmers.
Although both Kemps and Dean have bottling plants in Wisconsin, their companies are based elsewhere: Kemps in St. Paul, Minn., and Dean in Dallas, Texas.
Prairie Farms CEO Ed Mullins said the company receives a considerable amount of milk from Wisconsin farmers. The company purchases most of its milk from Swiss Valley Farms, a 950-member cooperative based in Davenport, Iowa. He said 350 of those farms are located in Wisconsin.
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