Mayfield packages ice cream in 56-ounce bricks (shown) and also 48-ounce scrounds. Ice cream for foodservice accounts is packaged in 3-gallon tubs the are developed in the plant.

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Technicians in the on-site quality control lab check fresh and frozen perfect products. Samples space pulled from the manufacturing line transparent the day to guarantee consistency.


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The Mayfield Dairy ranches plant spans Madison path in Athens, Tenn. A blowmolding procedure is on one side and also the milk and ice cream handling operations room on the other. The site also includes a visitors’ center.


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The signature yellow gallons space blowmolded on-site. The plant likewise makes jugs because that sister plants in Birmingham, Ala., and Braselton, Ga.


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The casual visitor to Athens, Tenn., would have actually no idea the dairy commodities produced right here are shipped throughout united States. Also residents of this small town, situated in the southeast edge of the state, probably do not know that Mayfield Dairy farms makes ice cream for other companies to offer in groceries stores across the country.

Mayfield’s dairy product plant, located just north the downtown Athens, is a sprawling complex. Chauffeurs of milk tankers examine in in ~ one building before unloading at the plant. Top top one side of Madison Avenue, life milk is processed into white milk, coco milk, buttermilk and also other liquid products. In another section the the plant, some of the 200-plus employees additionally manufacture a wide variety of ice cream products, varying from 14-ounce containers to 3-gallon foodservice tubs.


Across Madison Avenue, a blow-molding operation is constantly production Mayfield’s iconic bright, opaque yellow jugs that preserve the milk’s fresh by blocking out the UV light that breaks under nutrients and affects milk’s taste.

Mayfield Dairy farms is one of the operating units of Dean foods Co. The Dallas-based firm is the second-largest processor on the dairy 100, this magazine’s yearly ranking that dairies doing business in phibìc America. Corporate profits in 2014 totaled $9.5 billion. But measured by plants, Dean foods is the largest. It has 67 infrastructure manufacturing fluid milk, ice cream and cultured products.

The Mayfield division serves nine Southeastern states. It additionally operates a milk tree in Braselton, Ga., and also an ice cream plant in Birmingham, Ala. Mary Williams is general manager of the Mayfield division. Scott Watson is the plant manager of the Athens operation.


They and also the 205 manufacturing employees in Athens have their work reduced out for them. That’s because Mayfield recently landed ice cream company in Florida and also Louisiana due to the fact that no Dean department was serving those states with ice cream cream. That brand-new business keeps the freezers churning, as does the co-manufacturing commitment with Boardwalk Frozen Treats to develop Baskin-Robbins’ 14-ounce containers sold at grocery store stores throughout the joined States. (The Birmingham tree manufactures Baskin-Robbins foodservice tubs for scoop shops in 43 countries.)

On the fluid side, Mayfield party Dean’s DairyPure white milk and also TruMoo coco milk products. These space co-branded with Mayfield’s name.

Blow-molding plastic milk jugs

Mayfield produces its own half-gallon and also gallon jugs. It has actually six punch molders of differing capacities, native four-head to eight-head machines. Mayfield party its milk in glowing yellow jugs, i m sorry protects milk from destruction by ultraviolet light. The equipment likewise makes jugs in “natural” plastic for exclusive label customers. Besides developing bottles for this plant, Mayfield is making plastic containers for sister tree in Braselton and Birmingham.

Because the fillers deserve to fill bottles quicker than the punch molding tools can make them, Mayfield requirements to store a steady supply top top hand. Bags the 48 gallon jugs and also 108 half-gallon jugs are staged in this room. Completely automated baggers plunder the bottles in plastic. Likewise, fully automated de-baggers remove the plastic and place the bottles ago on the conveyor system that gives the fillers.

The dairy additionally bottles milk in plastic pints and also half-pint bottles. (A huge customer is McDonald’s restaurants, i beg your pardon buys white and chocolate milk in the half-pint size.) Bottles arrive from suppliers and are fed into a hopper and then top top conveyors. The bottles go v a labeling machine and a shrink tunnel. One unscrambler place the party in single paper order and also they then relocate to an build-up table and document up one elevator come the filling room. A performance advancement team looked at ways to improve this process and tweaked the tools to make the party flow much more smoothly with the system. Another development eliminated jams on the elevator.

Receiving milk, orange juice, sugar

Mayfield obtain 25 come 28 milk tankers a day, every day of the week, from 7:30 come 3:30. Tankers from nearby farms pull into a building throughout the street native the plant before they off-load the milk. Tankers room weighed on a truck scale and also Mayfield paint, etc samples. If the milk overcome organoleptic and also antibiotic tests, the trucks proceed to the four-bay receiving area in ~ the plant. After ~ unloading, the trucks are washed and sent ago on the road. Mayfield additionally takes in orange juice concentration at this receiving area; another part of the plant accepts deliveries of liquid sugars.

At one more receiving area the the plant, north milk instances return native customers. Two lines of conveyors feed the cases into one ultrasonic case washer. The ultrasonic activity knocks the dirt off the cases, which space then washed, sanitized and also stacked. Later, this clean situations will it is in filled v product and staged in the cooler. In the cooler, there space two palletizers staging the instances for delivery.

The tree in Athens has capacity to save 275,000 gallons of raw milk. The has four 10,000-gallon pasteurized tanks and also two 15,000-gallon tanks. In addition, the plant stores cream in 4 5,000-gallon tanks. Due to the fact that Mayfield additionally makes ice cream cream here, it occasionally needs to buy extr cream. One source is Knoxville milk processor Weigel’s (which to be featured in the April 2012 issue).

The handling rooms have actually three high temperature/short time pasteurizers for milk and also one for ice cream. It has actually three separators, which variety in volume from 4,000 come 9,500 gallons per hour. Buttermilk is a popular beverage in the Southeast, and Mayfield is up to the task of supplying its customers through the cultured drink. There are enough vats to make virtually 15,000 gallons of buttermilk every day. The tangy dairy beverage is also used to bake buttermilk biscuits. The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain is a customer, to buy buttermilk in half-gallons come be provided in that is biscuit recipes.

The pour it until it is full room to be abuzz throughout Dairy Foods’ visit. Mayfield has actually nine fillers, including a 24-valve unit for plastic half-gallons, a 30-valve unit because that plastic gallons and a 36-valve unit for plastic 8-ounce and pints bottles. There room three half-pint fillers that can also accommodate 4-ounce document containers. Mayfield puts brand on the front and also side of its branded gallons. Gallons made for other client receive just a former label.

Record prices of production, through machine, are detailed on plaques installed about the plant. The boards keep in mind the machine, the throughput accomplished and the team members operation the filler and also its support equipment at the time.

Mayfield makes ice cream, too

As listed above, not countless fluid milk plants likewise make ice cream cream. Besides making a full range of ice cream cream assets (from premium to light to no street added), Mayfield likewise makes frozen yogurt and a frozen dairy products dessert dubbed Snow Cream.

Ice cream manufacturing starts in ~ 6:30 a.m. One operator in the regulate room dials in the mix. Dry ingredients and packaging come native a 30,000-square-foot off-site warehouse.

Milk, cream, condensed milk, sugars and powders are combined in any of the three 2,000-gallon batch tanks. After ~ the powders are fully hydrated, the mix is pumped to the pasteurizer and then come the smell vats, whereby colors and also flavors room added. Specific flavors flow from big pressurized totes. Mayfield offered to pour seasonings by hand native gallon jugs however the totes allows for much more precise dosing. Mayfield uses a liquid cacao that “explodes” into chips once it access time the cold ice cream mix, claimed Scottie Mayfield, a grandson of the founder and the this firm chairman emeritus.

 On the day of ours visit, operators were filling 48-ounce scrounds (which get an inside seal), 56-ounce bricks and also 3-gallon tubs. The plant likewise fills 14-ounce paper containers because that Baskin-Robbins. Novelties are developed in the Alabama plant.

Mayfield makes the 3-gallon document tubs supplied by foodservice accounts. It used to usage a metal ring to organize the top and also bottom of the can in place. Because that safety reasons (cut fingers), the dairy changed to metal-less cans. Instead of a metal ring, the can be ~ are organized together by a plastic rim on the top and a food-grade adhesive on the bottom.

Once filled, the packages have actually codes published on the container. Lock pass through a vision mechanism to assure that the lid and the cup match. Climate they happen through steel detectors and also checkweighers.

Then the packages room conveyed to the hardening room. Mayfield has two methods to get the ice cream cream to a rock-hard state. One is a blast freezer (the dairy has actually two units) and also the various other a bowl hardener. In the frozen warehouse, one-rim and two-rim cranes pick pallets for distribution to customers. The customer base is growing. In the last year, Mayfield included supermarket client in Florida and Louisiana. Those were significant acquisitions; no Dean division had to be serving those claims with ice cream.

In addition to making certain the devices runs properly, Watson keeps clock on food safety and also employee safety. In the on-site quality control lab, the technicians are testing both fresh and frozen finished products. The laboratory tests samples throughout the work to assure consistency. The lab is additionally performing tests because that butterfat, solids and brix. Climate there space tests because that coliform, straight micro count (DMC) and also psychrotrophic organisms. Watson likewise said there space hanging drop, phosphatase and also allergen verifications tests. Because that packaging, there room die check on half-pint cartons of school milk and also fill weights. Technicians cut open ice cream packages come look for ideal distribution of inclusions and also variegates. Over there are likewise taste tests and other organoleptic examinations.

Depending top top the test, close to infra-red lab tools can administer the outcomes in seconds. Yet when they require to, rap technicians have the right to conduct the slower Babcock tests that every food science significant learned in college.

Regular communications

Plant managers hold regularly scheduled daily and also weekly meetings to recognize issues and also upcoming manufacturing needs. Line employees go through monthly maintain on tree safety and food safety, and are experiment with paper or virtual tests come gauge their comprehension. Every department (such together receiving, handling or filling) tracks an essential performance indicators. The results are shown on white boards exterior the administer office. Those written in eco-friendly are outcomes that meet or exceed targets. Those composed in red indicate development is needed.

Four communication stations, consists of flat-panel televisions, are collection up in employee rest rooms throughout the plant. Watson can push out messages of interest to employees, as have the right to the corporate office.

Both the fluid side and also the ice cream cream next of the plant have earned Level 3 certification in the safe Quality foods items initiative. In addition, the federal Food and Drug administration inspects the plant, together does the Tennessee department of Agriculture. Dean foodstuffs has its own quality audits the its 60-some processing plants. This intramural vain keeps each plant manager striving to improve.

Mayfield’s Birmingham plant got the Dean foods items CEO quality Award for ice cream cream in 2013 and 2014. Criteria include SQF scores, training participation and consumer complaint improvement. The judging committee additionally considers high quality innovations, ideal practices and company culture. Eddie Allen is the tree manager in Birmingham.

In announcing the award in May, Dean CEO Gregg Tanner said, “Dean foods holds its plants to really high standards, making for specifically stiff competition neighboring this award. We are delighted with Mayfield’s excellence in protecting top quality from farm to table, and also we’re proud to organize them up as an example for the 2nd year in a row.”

Mayfield has actually been making dairy product products since 1923. At that time, only occupants of McMinn County, Tennessee appreciated them. Today, consumers throughout the joined States and throughout the world enjoy the dairy product foods and also beverages do in Athens, Birmingham and Braselton.

At-A-Glance

Mayfield dairy products Farms, Athens, Tenn.

Interstate Milk Shippers tree 47-131Raw milk score 90; enforcement score 97 (July 2015).

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Year built: 1950Products made: milk, buttermilk, orange juice, teas, lemonades, ice cream cream, frozen yogurtProduction employees: 205 in the milk and also ice cream plantsPasteurization: high-temperature/short timeMilk fillers and formats: 9 fillers, including two 24-valve devices – one because that plastic half-gallons and also another one because that plastic quarts; a 30-valve unit and also a 28-valve unit for plastic gallons, 36-valve unit for plastic 8-ounce and also pints bottles. There room three half-pint filler that can additionally accommodate 4-ounce boxes and also a dispenser bag filler.Ice cream fillers and formats: 7 fillers, 14-ounce and 16-ounce containers, two 48-ounce scround fillers, 56-ounce bricks, 4 quart pails, 3-gallon foodservice tubs, quarts and fifty percent gallon ring plasticBlow molding: 6 punch molders with four, six and eight headsRaw milk warehouse capacity: 275,000 gallonsPasteurized milk warehouse capacity: 90,000 gallonsWarehouse: 30,000 square-foot offsite facility

Photos through Vito Palmisano