LOGAN, Utah — Operations at Utah State University’s Gary H. Richardson Dairy Products Laboratory have returned to normal after closing shop before Thanksgiving last year. Workers spent the past four months renovating the lab to conform to state regulations.
“Although we’ve done a lot of changes to the store and to the lab, we are consistently sticking to the tradition of Aggie Ice Cream with the same recipe and same great taste,” said Dave Irish, Aggie Creamery manager at USU.
The Aggie Creamery underwent renovations between February and March 2018, long before the products lab became the focus of attention.
“We had to plan ahead,” Irish said. “We determined how much we had sold the previous year and planned to make that amount of product, plus some, so that we could make it through the construction.”
Irish said that they doubled the storage capacity so that they could make it through the winter.
“It was a very aggressive change because we had this plan to renovate from December until March 1, however, instead we got the workers in just before Thanksgiving and had to go until the end of March.”
Irish said that new regulations mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act required new floors, drains and walls, as well as a lower ceiling in the lab.
“We had to take the ceiling from 20 feet to about 11 feet and the drains had to be changed to make them easier to clean,” Irish said. “It’s a smaller area overall but will operate better and be easier to clean.”
The remodel was funded by a bill that passed in the Utah State Legislature in 2018 and cost $900,000. The remodel meant that the creamery eventually began to run low on certain flavors of ice cream, but Irish said that the improvements were necessary.
“It was a long process, but it was full of positive advancements,” Irish said. “This was really the first time the Dairy Products Lab had been shut down in about 40 years.”
Between 20-30 students are employed in the creamery and six full-time students work in the lab. Irish said that everyone who has seen the changes has been excited about how clean everything is.
The floor of the lab is managed by the nutrition, dietetics & food sciences department in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. Previously there were 34 drains but none of them could be cleaned out. The floor and the old drains were removed, and 17 new drains were installed with lids and strainer baskets that can be taken out and easily cleaned.
New tile was installed and new pipes were added coming down out of the ceiling rather than up from the floor. This created fewer obstacles for employees and equipment to work around.
Irish said plenty of new open area has made it easier to work in the lab, and the ceiling is now a bright white from new LED lights with white walls instead of beige.
“All the changes come with the best interest in making the creamery and lab even better,” Irish said. “But it’s the same taste we’ve been serving for decades.”