Guest Editorial  



Focusing on No. 98, and Beyond,
for Collegiate Judging Contest

Chad Galer
Contest Coordinator
Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest

Vice President of Product Innovation and Food Safety
Dairy Management Inc.

July 9, 2021

The Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest, which began in 1916 as the “Students Butter Judging Contest,” has had its share of understandable interruptions. World War I and II halted the event and – of course – it happened again last year during the COVID-19 crisis.

So, while we should be past our 100th contest, we’re still a bit short. But we’ll happily celebrate a return to normalcy for our 98th gathering in April 2022, which will be hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association in Milwaukee.

While the rest of the country may have adapted to a virtual Zoom world, the concept of judging dairy products is something you have to see, taste and smell in person. The critical sensory attributes just don’t translate over a monitor!

I was happy and humbled to take on the role of contest coordinator two years ago, but I have been part of this event for more than 12 years.
Before joining Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), where I serve as vice president of product innovation and food safety, I was part of the research and development team at Kraft Foods. While there, I served as a regional contest Cheddar judge, eventually becoming the lead judge.

My close relationship with the contest has afforded me to see its many benefits.

For the students, this is their time to test their judging skills against their peers across the country as well as industry experts. This is about learning how to evaluate a dairy product’s flavors, textures and consistency across six categories: 2-percent milk, butter, vanilla ice cream, Cheddar cheese, strawberry Swiss-style yogurt and cottage cheese. It’s also about having the ability to identify defects and relate them back to a cause and effect, a critical component to maintaining food safety and quality.

And in addition to building their resumes and forging relationships, there is a little bit of money to be made for the winners!

For the industry, there is a big play here as well. This is an opportunity for dairy companies to meet our industry’s future workforce, and that is a value that should never be understated.

About 100 undergraduate and graduate students from 17 or so of the country’s top food science programs, including many from the checkoff-funded National Dairy Foods Research Centers, participate in this event.

These are some of the best collegiate dairy minds, including many whose roots like mine began on a dairy farm.

Upon graduation, these students will seek jobs in research and development, plant supervision, a role with quality and production or some other position related to food science. Their fresh outlooks and innovative concepts are a welcomed necessity to our industry’s future, and it should be our collective mission to keep them engaged in dairy as long as we can.

In fact, some of my colleagues on DMI’s product research team are former competition participants who continue to use skills they learned from it in their everyday jobs.

Before we get to No. 98, we’ll be able to shake off the dust at our regional competition in November. We’ll be at Continental Dairy Facilities, a state-of-the-art milk powder and butter company in Michigan. Students will tour this facility, which produces more than 300,000 pounds of nonfat dry milk per day.

We’ll also be using a much-needed enhancement to the competition for only the second time: iPads and online software. Yes, the No. 2 pencils, Scantrons and clipboards will take their rightful place as relics of yesterday. This technology will make the contest more efficient and in line with the way this generation is accustomed to operating. Participants will have access to real-time scoring, and they’ll be using the same tools I and other judges use in the US and world championship cheese contests.

It took a lot of work and it’s a big step forward, but I can sense the students’ excitement for this technology. Its use will allow everyone to feel comfortable and to work out any kinks before heading into nationals.

Being the contest’s volunteer lead is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I was born into this industry on a dairy in Fennimore, WI, so I very much have a personal stake in its success and helping to prepare students for their futures. It’s my way of giving back to an industry that has given so much to me.

I’m fortunate for the support from DMI and my product research team in this endeavor. They fully understand its value and what it means to our industry’s future. It’s hard to imagine not having this opportunity for the students. I have seen the hard work they put into it and the joy they get from competing and meeting their peers across the US.

I am committed to getting us not just through the 98th contest but to No. 100 and beyond. Truthfully, no matter what year contest we’re on, just being back together in person is a moment worth celebrating.

It’ll be great to again feel the excitement and energy in a room filled with dairy’s leaders of tomorrow.

Cheese Reporter welcomes letters to the editor. Comments should be sent to: Dick Groves by Fax at (608) 246-8431; or e-mail your comments to





Chad Galer studied microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and spent 16 years at Kraft Foods before joining Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) He has served as a judge for the World Championship Cheese Contest and the United States Championship Cheese Contest and also produces “Chad The Cheese Guy” videos for DMI.


Previous Guest Editorials:

Briding the Digital Divide
Julie Sweney

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative
June 11, 2021