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The Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest board of directors are proud to announce its momentous milestone as it commemorates a 100 years of fostering excellence in the dairy industry. Established in 1916, this esteemed competition has been a cornerstone of dairy products training, education, and sensory evaluation for over 100 years.

Contest History:

Since its humble beginnings in 1916, the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of the dairy industry. For a century, the contest has provided a platform for students and professionals to showcase their expertise in the evaluation and analysis of dairy products .

"Students from nine agriculture colleges competed in the first butter judging contest held at the Nationals.The Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture gave very liberal prizes for winning teams and individuals, and it was largely instrumental in making the contest possible." - Hoards Dairyman, November 10, 1916, p. SS4.

This is a summary of the first Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest held in connection with the National Dairy Show sponsored by the National Dairy Association. Butter was the only product judged because of its commercial importance at that time. From this modest beginning in 1916, the Student’s Butter Judging Contest has grown to an internationally recognized competition with university teams from the United states and several international teams with over 100 dairy industry company participants and sponsors. While it started with butter in 1916; cheddar cheese and milk were added in 1917, in 1926 ice cream, in 1962 cottage cheese, and in 1977 yogurt was added.

The Contest has been sponsored by several organizations over the years. The first butter judging contest was sponsored by the National Dairy Association later followed by the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), International Association of Food Industry Suppliers (IAFIS) and the American Dairy Association and International Dairy Foods Association. Today, the three primary sponsoring organizations are Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Dairy Recognition and Education Foundation (DREF). Companies throughout the dairy industry also support the contest in many ways through hosting contest space, donations to the contest, product samples to judge, as well as time by industry leaders, to judge, officiate and organize the event.

Over a century later, 5 generations of college students have been trained in sensory methods of evaluating the quality of six dairy products - butter, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and vanilla ice cream. The number of college teams rose from nine to a maximum of 33 in 1956. The Contest represents the culmination of an intense training of students by college professors who are experts in dairy product evaluation. Over the years, more than 4000 students have participated.

While training is at the heart of the mission of CDPEC, winning comes with dedication, talent, and time. The most team wins have been from South Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Mississippi State, and Iowa State University. Below is a table of participating universities through the years:

*No contests were held in 1918 (WWI), from 1942 to 1946 (WWII), and 2020 to 2021.

Educational Impact:

The contest is not only about wins and competition, it has served as a crucial educational tool . It has allowed undergraduate teams of participants as well as graduate students to hone their skills, gain practical experience, and develop a profound understanding of dairy products' quality and characteristics. The impact of this educational initiative is reflected in the countless successful careers it has nurtured.

With upwards of 20 schools participating yearly, it’s incredible to think of the thousands of participants over the years.

Celebrating Achievements:

As we mark this significant milestone, we reflect on the numerous achievements and advancements that have emerged from the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. The dedication of participants, the support of industry partners, and the commitment of organizers have collectively contributed to the contest's enduring success. Many companies and individuals have been pivotal in continued success, with several stepping up to form a board of directors in 2008. In 2018, the board said goodbye to out-dated scantron sheets and upgraded to a new, flexible scoring system that can be updated in real time to adjust scoring attributes much more rapidly as dairy products evolve and tabulate scores in no time.

Students have received countless awards, scholarships, and memorable experiences through travel stipends. Several trips are sponsored for winners and their coaches including judging side by side with pros at the U.S. and World Cheese Competitions, judging at the American Cheese Society Contest, and a trip to the QCS Annual Conference.

As we celebrate the past, we also look forward to the future. The Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest remains committed to fostering training, excellence, and collaboration within the dairy industry. CDPEC has kick-started many careers with the support of dedicated coaches at over 60 universities from across the globe. With the continued support by generous sponsors, dedication of coaches and students, and support of industry leaders, we are confident that the next century will train and serve more students than the last.

Centennial Celebration Event:

To mark the 100th anniversary, the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest will be hosting a special centennial celebration event on April 17, 2024. Please join us at CheeseExpo to celebrate during the awards ceremony right before the WCMA cheese auction. We would love to recognize and connect with past participants, judges, industry leaders, and supporters to commemorate the contest’s rich history.