1934 and
seventy cows

Keep it clean; keep it cold; keep it moving. This is the banner we wave with pride at Plains Dairy. Since 1934, Plains Dairy has built a reputation of delivering the freshest milk in town. Once again, we were awarded a rating of “Excellent” by the leading outside auditing service, Randolph Associates Inc. This dedication provides our member retailers with a dairy program of excellence that is unsurpassed.

This same commitment to our non-dairy production has resulted in growth in this area as well.

When you want the best, it’s Plains to see.

Plains' reputation? Top shelf
For 75 years, dairy churns out the goods
By Kevin Welch
kevin.welch@amarillo.com
________________________________________________________

The pace of production at Plains Dairy has only speeded up through its 75 years, and at 2.5 million gallons a month of various drinks, it can quench a lot of thirsts.

Milking the numbers

A look at Plains Dairy's operations:

• 15 - approximate number of truckloads of milk Plains takes in a day
• 4,000 to 4,800 gallons - amount of milk in the trucks
• 90 percent - amount of Plains Dairy production that goes to Affiliated Foods
• 650,000 gallons - amount of drinks processed at Plains each week
• 500,000 gallons - amount of production that is milk
• Almost 100 - number of employees

Milk makes up about two-thirds of the dairy's production, and trucks bring it in from regional dairies seven days a week.

"Milk is the only product harvested at least twice a day," said Greg Meador, Plains Dairy's vice president. "It never stops."

About 80 percent of the supply comes from within 75 miles of Amarillo, so there isn't a lot of travel time.

"Generally, we don't take raw milk older than 24 hours," Meador said. "It's processed, bottled and shipped out when it's a day or day and a half old from the cow."

J. Lindsay Nunn started what became Plains Dairy on a rather different scale, with 75 cows in 1934, when the pace was slower. He took over a dairy he had financed for another party and launched decades of growth.

"He got out of the cow business pretty quick," Meador said.

Now, the plant at Taylor Street and North Third Avenue has almost 100 employees, and it bottles a variety of milk products, Red Diamond tea, Tampico punch, Culligan water and fruit juices.

Affiliated Foods has owned Plains since 1996. During its 75 years of operations, Plains has been known as Plains Creamery and also operated as Sealtest when National Dairy, a division of Kraft Foods, owned it, according to information from the company.

Plains ships its milk to retail stores across the Panhandle, but 90 percent of it goes 10 miles along the road to its parent. But from there, the miles rack up as it goes to retailers in West Texas, New Mexico and parts of Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas.

To feed that supply chain, the pace is brisk in the complex of buildings that houses the dairy's processing. There are two shifts of 10 hours at least four days a week, and Wednesdays and Saturdays are "flex" days that also usually are busy.

The actual processing happens in rooms with constant hums, puffs of compressed air or clacking machines overseen by constantly moving humans.

Rows of jugs march in line on overhead conveyors from a machine where plastic resin balloons expand into forms to make the jugs. A roll of labels spins, leaving behind paper art on the jugs.

Then the process gets serious, in a room with a ceiling seemingly filled with pipes and tubes that carry the all-important liquids to their destinations. Milk spurts from the tops of turntables to fill the jugs, and the process in punctuated with a cap.

Robotic arms lower 12 jugs at a time into cardboard boxes headed to an indoor loading dock to make a truckload.

Similar processes are taking place across the room as the plant simultaneously processes skim milk, chocolate milk and iced tea.

Above the action in one room are two signs with simple instructions - "Keep It Cold!" and "Keep It Moving!"

"That's a mantra around here," Meador said.

And what about the next 75 years?

"That's been the natural question all year," Meador said. "Our primary goal will be to continue to provide Affiliated. That's where we're going to see our growth and expansion."

Michael Schumacher / Amarillo Globe-News
Half-pint cartons of Plains Dairy chocolate milk fly by a filler-production line. The dairy produces 500,000 gallons of milk a week. it also bottles a variety of milk products, Red Diamond Tea, Tampico punch, Culligan water and fruit juices.

Michael Schumacher / Amarillo Globe-News
Plains Dairy vice president Greg Meador displays the amount of plastic resin used to make one, 1-gallon milk jug at the plant at Taylor Street and North Third Avenue.

Michael Schumacher / Amarillo Globe-News
Production never stops at the dairy: The milk jug filler machine dispenses 116 gallons a minute.

       


today,
Plains Dairy sells 110,000 gallons of milk a day to customers over 500 miles away.

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