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Saputo Friendship and Empire Cheese in Cuba cleaned up in several categories this week at the 43rd annual New York State Dairy Products Contest at the New York State Fair.

Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball Thursday announced the winners of the 2019 Dairy Products Competition in celebration of the 43rd annual Dairy Day at The Great New York State Fair. Seventeen companies took home gold for products judged in 26 classes, including yogurt, dips, sour cream, cheese, milk and more.

Of the companies, Saputo Friendship and Upstate Niagara of Buffalo earned the most medals overall, with a total of eight each.

“Year after year, the State’s dairy processors, using New York milk, continue to make dairy products that set us apart from our competition.” Ball said. “I congratulate the winners of this year’s State Fair Dairy Products Competition and all of the participants, who take great pride in making delicious and healthy products for our families. Today is a great day for dairy, not only for these winners but also because we have good news on expansion of a program that helps our dairy farmers manage and grow their businesses.”

Saputo received the gold and silver for its full fat cottage cheeses, low fat cottage cheese and nonfat cottage cheese. In addition, the firm won a gold medal for its sour cream and another for its reduced fat no salt buttermilk — which received one of only two perfect scores handed out by the judges.

Empire Cheese’s Cuba facility received a gold medal and an award of excellence for its unsmoked provolone, as well as a silver medal for its smoked provolone.

The entries were evaluated by eight expert judges from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell University, Vivolac and Wegmans. Winners of the competition will be displayed in the Dairy Products Building next to the Butter Sculpture at the fair.

Friendship and Cuba have been centers of dairy production for more than a century.

Saputo’s operation in Friendship has been producing cottage cheese since 1917. For many years, the operation was called Friendship Dairies until it was purchased by Dean Foods unit Morningstar Food. Montreal-based Saputo purchased Morningstar in 2012. The facility employs more than 200 workers from across the region.

Cuba was once known as the Cheese Center of the World, with the price of cheese established weekly at the Kinney Hotel as the accepted price nationwide. The first cheese company opened in 1871 under the name Ackerly, Sill and Co. That firm, through various owners and name changes, is the direct ancestor of Empire Cheese on Haskell Road.

Other regional dairy producers were also represented in the awards. Byrne Dairy, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Upstate Farms Cooperative and HP Hood of Arkport also received recognition for their efforts.

Dairy continues to be important to regional economies. According to the state government, New York has nearly 4,000 dairy farms with 623,000 dairy cows. In 2017, 14.9 billion pounds of milk was produced — about 7% of the nation’s supply.