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Cream Dreams — How Straus Family Creamery stays afloat in the rocky dairy industry

Pacific Sun

Photo Courtesy Pacific Sun

By Jonah Raskin

“We’re not for sale,” says Albert Straus, as pints of soft, mushy coffee ice cream come down the conveyor belt at Petaluma’s Straus Family Creamery and are placed in a freezer at –20 degrees so they’ll harden almost instantly. “When companies go public, they often care less about values and more about the return on the investment.”

The creamery’s founder dips a spoon into one of the containers, before it’s sealed, and tastes it. In comparison to national brands that are available from coast to coast, Straus ice cream is sold largely in the Bay Area, and, as a privately held company, is not traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

“These are volatile times in the milk industry,” Straus says. “On the one hand, there’s overproduction of milk globally which has decreased income for dairy farmers. On the other hand, consumers are demanding higher milk-fat products, which has created a shortage of cream and milk fat.”

Dairy farmers from Holland to Ireland and California are facing uncertain futures. Marin once boasted hundreds of dairies that stretched from Marshall to Novato and Petaluma. Today, there are less than 25 in the county.

So what does Straus Family Creamery do? Make more ice cream, in more flavors than ever before, and hope to save rural communities in the process.

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