A while ago I was one of the lucky few to get invited to the Ben & Jerry’s factory and farm visit. Did I have to think about this one? No! It immediately brought me back to Charlie and the chocolate factory (do I need to say more?! besides ice cream, ice cream flavors, tasting ice cream and lots of it) and to the days when I was little girl and my dad used to have an ice cream factory. Yes you read it right, he had an ice cream factory in Suriname, called Dairy International. When I was younger and I would go on a play date, my friends would always be more exited to see what flavor ice cream I brought along than to see me hahaha…no just kidding, they were exited I would be coming to play, but the fact that I brought them ice cream made it more special. Ok, so back to the visit.
On day one I met up with Kelly from Goodfoodlove and we joined the international group in a bus and off we went to the factory in Hellendoorn. We were going to experience the whole production process and I had never realized that in the factory in Hellendoorn B&J produces ice cream for the whole of Europe. How cool is that!
We also got some presentations on Ben&Jerrys as a company trying to make the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way. This doesn’t only refer to the fact that B&J is made with 100% fair trade products, but also refers to their latest gem the Bio Digestor aka the Chunkinator producing “Greenergy”. This is a machine that uses leftover ice cream slug and transforms that in to energy, which is then used back in to the production line. Amazing don’t you think? Quite unique as they are the only one in the world using this method. We first visited the Chunkinator and man o man that smell was not that good. Cool to see someone came up with this amazing idea and that its now reality and successful. Hopefully this is a nice showcase for other countries to start producing greenergy too.
After we were done there, we visited the factory and during the presentations everybody told us that the Ice cream that comes of the line directly is the best. So our mission was getting some of that goodness in our tummies. We felt like 5 year olds getting super exited when you know you are about to get some candy! Finally moment of truth and man that ice cream was so nice, creamy, thick and freshly made. Kelly and I couldn’t stop eating. I was thinking to myself I need to remember this as it will never be the same tasting B&Js again. I will always think of that moment. I have now made a promise to myself that I need to wait a little bit longer when digging in to the pint at home. Patience does pay off I guess.
The next morning we were welcomed at Ronnie and Cindy’s farm that is part of the Caring Dairy family providing B&J with good quality milk. So basically B&J works with a caring dairy program that was launched in 2003 to improve environmental, social and economic animal welfare performance for dairy farmers supplying Ben & Jerrys’s. In 2007 they teamed up with Cono Kaasmakers (an organization of Dutch cheese farmers) and scaled the caring dairy program to almost 500 farmers that resulted in the produce of all milk used in Ben & Jerry’s EU products. Normally farmers work on their own and have limited contact with other farmers, but this program helps them, creates study groups and workshops to help them learn from each other and get deeper understanding of subjects related to happy cows, happy farmers and a happy planet. Basically the idea is that cows belong in fields and they should graze there (at the minimum of 120 days, 6 hours per day). A farmer can make a lot more money not having the cows graze in the fields, but looking at the bigger picture, it is better for them to do so. The farmers also gets paid a premium price for the milk their cows produce. The Cono organization yearly visually audits all farmers to determine if they meet requirements.
It was really nice to see how the cows were living a relaxed and good life. I also loved the fact that the cows get to eat grass like its supposed to be. In a nutshell: Happy cows, happy farmers and a happy planet!
Thank you Ben & Jerry’s for a truly unique moment and from now on I will enjoy my Pints even more and also realize you are actually trying to make the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way.