Day in the life of the Fonterra Stanhope Cheese Graders


In the heart of northern Victoria – a 2 ½ hour drive from Melbourne – you will find Fonterra’s Stanhope site, which is home to around 180 of its people.

It is here that Fonterra’s skilled team turns high-quality milk from local farmers into dairy products that people love. 

From cheddar and parmesan to ricotta and romano, and even gouda and mozzarella, the factory creates a wide range of cheese varieties. The site has been known for its incredible award-winning cheese – so it is no surprise why Stanhope is called the “Town of the Tastiest Cheese.”

But that is not all – the site also produces anhydrous milk fat, ghee, whey, and high-quality milk powders. 

With a capacity to produce 80,000 metric tonnes of product, people across Australia and around the world enjoy Stanhope’s dairy products every day. 

Fonterra Cheese Technical Manager, Dave Mellor, believes the recipe for award-winning cheese is firstly high-quality milk and expert cheese makers who know exactly how to make the best cheese.

However, what many people do not know is that there is also another important team who ensure every block of cheese that leaves the site is of the high-quality and ready for people to enjoy – that is the Stanhope Cheese Graders.

“Behind every block of cheese that is made at Fonterra’s Stanhope site, there is a dedicated team of cheese graders who test the cheese on a range of attributes from taste, aroma, flavour, and texture.

“Like a wine judge, they do not swallow the product – just run it over their tastebuds and do physical checks of the product, checking the cheese for a range of parameters they are trained to detect, before spitting it out.

“When we test mozzarella, we go through a further process of checking it’s meltability, blistering and stretch – that’s where the test kitchen equipped with commercial pizza ovens comes in handy,” said Dave.

Some may consider this the best job in the world – tasting cheese and making pizza – so Dave takes us into the Stanhope testing kitchen to give use a behind the scenes look at how the Fonterra team grade each block of cheese.