Conference Sessions

Interested in presenting at the 2020 ACS Conference? Learn about the Session Selection Process and our Call for Presentations.

2019 ACS Conference

Get ready for Richmond! Review the Conference Schedule and check out our Conference Highlights to learn more about the different types of programming offered and to help plan your conference experience. Please note these sessions are subject to change.

General Sessions
Session NumberSession TitleDescriptionSpeakers
1Virginia Terroir: Made in Virginia Cheese & WineFive paired tasting of Virginia made cheeses and wine. Discussion of the terrior of Virginia and how the expressions come out in the products made here. Sheep, goat and cows milk cheese, fresh to aged. Wide range of varietals from our Eastern Shore to the Blue Ridge Mountains.Jeffery Mitchell, Dany Schutte
2Dairy Milk vs. Non Dairy: A Look At Consumer Trends, Nutrition Research, and Sustainability FindingsConsumers’ food and beverage options are increasing dramatically as category innovation brings consumers myriad new choices in all retail channels. Innovation in non-dairy beverages has been especially strong as manufacturers try to appeal to consumers’ desire for products that meet their health and wellness goals, while addressing sustainability issues that are becoming more and more important in the purchase decision. This session will highlight research on consumer perceptions of dairy milk and non-dairy beverages, as well as examine how these perceptions line up with the scientific evidence of each product’s nutritional profile and environmental impact.Kari Skibbie, Jen Walsh, Andrew Westrich
3Artisan Cheese Quality & Data TrackingTracking specific parameters throughout the cheesemaking process from milk to mouth can have a major impact on the long-term quality of a cheesemaker’s products. The cheesemaking process has many variables that contribute or detract from cheese quality, so it’s important to determine which are the most important parameters to track for your own process. The Penn State Extension Cheese Tracking System, was developed to help cheesemakers improve their cheese, and was introduced at the 2017 ACS meeting. In this session we will discuss how to determine the best variables to monitor and how to use the data, whether you use the Penn State system or not. Case studies from cheesemakers that are using the cheese tracking system will illustrate how they are benefitting from the data and making proactive decisions on cheesemaking, affinage, and food safety.Dr. Kerry E. Kaylegian, Olivia Haver, Matthew Ranieri
4A Delicious Challenge: Making and Selling American Sheep Milk CheeseSheep milk cheese has a long history and is celebrated internationally, but in the USA, it's a burgeoning artisan industry with a lot of growth ahead. Listen as two artisan sheep milk cheese producers and a retailer who specializes in domestically-produced cheeses, discuss what makes sheep milk cheeses so unique. We’ll look at specific differences in the milk and make procedures of sheep cheese, and why sheep cheese is more expensive than other artisan cheeses. How can we support our small domestic sheep milk producers, educate our customers and make that sheep milk cheese fly from the case? We look forward to answering your questions and having a lively discussion about this incredible milk!Anna Thomas Bates, Jenny Eastwood, Chris Osborne
5Hot Topic!Dick Roe
6How Sweet Are You? The Science of TasteDive deep into the elements of sensory evaluation to gauge your threshold for the five tastes on the tongue and to gain a better understanding of your palate. Join sensory expert Russell Smith to find out just how differently we all experience flavors. But, before you can understand the flavors in food, you need to understand your palate. This session is ticketed, and treated like a tasting session without the cheese. The session will be held 3 times during conference, and the capacity is limited to 15 participants per session. There is an additional fee of $25.Russell Smith
7Open Networking: New MembersOpportunities to connect and network with industry colleagues organized by theme. These are facilitated discussions.
8Natural Wine, Natural CheeseIn the last twenty years the natural wine movement has been a dynamic force shaping the wine world. This is the movement that unites the most exciting wine venues from Brooklyn to Tokyo. The drive for wines of minimal intervention is no mere hipster affectation: it has placed questions of ethics, authenticity, and farming at the center of young wine consumers’ worldview. In this tasting we explore how the philosophy of the natural wine movement is mirrored in recent developments within the dairy industry. Both are agricultural products with the capacity to communicate a sense of place, and autochthonous microbes are equally central to the conversation. Can the cheese industry use the energy and excitement that surrounds natural wine as an opportunity to engage new consumers? And are there any pitfalls that can be avoided?Lydia Clarke, Marnie Clarke, Francis Percival, Erin Scala, Rachel Fritz Schaal
9Cheese Milk: Adding Value & Improving QualityExceptional cheese starts with exceptional milk. Choice of breed, feed, equipment, handling, and scale all playa role in milk production, and these choices make the difference between fluid milk and milk suited to cheesemaking. Hear how a cheesemaker and a dairy farmer have worked together so that the farmer is compensated for making exceptional milk and the cheesemaker avoids milk-related quality problems. We will discuss how clear contracts clarify farmer/cheesemaker relationships and share a few sample contracts that have been used in successful partnerships. Peter Dixon, Seth Leach, Sue Miller, Jesse Werner
10Why is this Cheese So Expensive?Join us for a dynamic and important discussion about communicating value to the customer. We will define value both economic and intangible. We will discuss customer service, and hear the best and brightest ways to educate our customers and how to bedazzle them with clever merchandising. Bring your ideas and techniques to share! Now is the time to show off, inspire and be inspired! Gain some new insights and take home a few new tricks!Liz Nerud
11Physical Rehab & PreventionGouda elbow? Cheddar back pain? Our industry is full of physical injuries steming from repetitive movements. Our panel of a cheesemaker, cheesemonger, and physical therapist will explain the movements that produce these injuries, and ways to prevent. The therapist will show stretches to combat them.Tina Mooney, Andi Wandt
12Town HallACS Board of Directors & Staff
13Open Networking: Dairy and Non-Dairy Alternatives - A Discussion on TrendsOpportunities to connect and network with industry colleagues organized by theme. These are facilitated discussions.Bob Wills
14You Be The JudgeFULL DISCLOSURE: This is an educational session disguised as a tasting session! Will we be tasting cheese? Absolutely. However, this session is designed to recreate a portion of the experience of what it's like to judge for the American Cheese Society. Utilizing four different styles of cheese, attendees will be focusing on different, essential aspects of the process while highlighting the many skills used by your competition judges. Guided by the executive team for the Judging & Competition Committee, this tasting will be highly interactive, so come prepared to share your opinions with the room and possibly beyond!Rachel Perez, Rich Rogers
15Dairy Farming, Climate Change Mitigation and the MarketplaceDairy farming has come under intense scrutiny in recent years and is often criticized for having a negative impact on the land and environment. However, not all dairy farming is the same and many cheesemakers have adopted methods of farming which offer an alternative to widespread ‘conventional’ methods. Some companies mitigate or offset any negative impacts of cheese they produce in other ways. There can be significant benefits to the soil, plants, greater environment and even the bottom line in operation costs resulting from these efforts. In this session a scientist and four cheesemakers will discuss their understanding of and approaches to this issue and how their efforts translate to the marketplace.

Joshua Faulkner, of the University of Vermont Farming and Climate Change Program at the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture will describe some of the science behind both positive and negative dairy impacts on the land as well as field practices being tested and implemented in Vermont. Ralph Schlatter owner of Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese (Ohio), Mary Quicke of Quickes Traditional Cheddar (Devon UK), David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery (Oregon) and Kurt Dammeier of Beechers Handmade Cheese (Washington & New York) will each describe their work to shift dairy impacts in the positive direction, talk about marketplace impacts and how we can move forward to address these issues in the cheesemaking community.
Kurt Dammeier, Joshua Faulkner, David Gremmels, Ralph Schlatter, Jeremy Stephenson, Mary Quicke
16ACS Retailer's ToolkitThe American Cheese Society has worked in conjunction with cheese retailers (large and small), food safety specialists, and other industry representatives to develop a best practices guide called The Retailer’s Toolkit. This lecture will begin with a general overview of the Toolkit: how it is structured, what is included in it, and how it is intended to be used. The heart of the presentation will consist of a series of case studies that demonstrate the unique ways retailers can employ this resource: panelists will share how they adapt solutions to fit their individual size, retail structure, staffing model, etc., while still maintaining the core food safety elements. The session will conclude with an engaging Q&A portion to gather comments, questions, and concerns from the larger retail community.Amanda Bernhardt, Andrew Torrens
17Mold: The Good, The Bad, and The UglyFrom Penicillium roqueforti to Geotrichum candidum- there is a lot to know about the various fungi that grow on cheese. Understanding these various molds is important in assessing the quality of cheese and in controlling the affinage of certain cheese varieties. Come listen to the expert and learn as they discuss the microbial jungle that makes cheese the amazing food that it is.
Megan Biango-Daniels, PhD
18The Physics Behind Affinage and How to Create the Ideal Environment at Any ScaleLet's understand how the technical parameters such as temperature, humidity, air flow control and air treatment system in general are important in the affinage of cheeses and the impact they can have on the cheese yield. The audience will be given tools to understand the importance of interactions between environment and cheeses, the differences between static versus ventilated affinage and overall identify if their air treatment system is well designed for the affinage of their cheeses.Sebastien Legneaux, Eric Meredith
19How Sweet Are You?Dive deep into the elements of sensory evaluation to gauge your threshold for the five tastes on the tongue and to gain a better understanding of your palate. Join sensory expert Russell Smith to find out just how differently we all experience flavors. But, before you can understand the flavors in food, you need to understand your palate. This session is ticketed, and treated like a tasting session without the cheese. The session will be held 3 times during conference, and the capacity is limited to 15 participants per session. There is an additional fee of $25.Russell Smith
20Open Networking: Tariffs and Cheese - A Community-based DebateCome and learn a little bit about the wonderful world of tariffs! This community based discussion will allow for multiple viewpoints to be shared to help form a better understanding as to why they are in place and why that may or may not be a good thing.Kelsie Parsons, Tom Perry
21Non-Drinkers Guide to Cheese PairingWhen it comes to cheese pairings, booze is king. But teetotalers and lightweights shouldn't be left out of the pairing fun. This seminar introduces stellar beverage pairings that don't require a minimum age or ID, just an open mind and hungry palate. The session will cover tasting and pairing principles that can also be applied to everyday beverages like coffee, tea, and other growing beverage categories. Ideal for any venues that don't have alcohol licenses or as an offering for customers that don't or can't partake in any sort of boozy goodness.Vanessa Chang, Andy Fitzgerrell
22Improving Profits by Analyzing Data: Understanding All the Rules and When to Break ThemWant to increase gross profit but not sure where to start? POS technology arms us with extensive sales data, but how do we make sense of it? And how do we use it to inform our behavior? Learn from Di Bruno Bros.’ Hunter Fike how to interpret your data so you can improve your purchasing decisions, price architecture, sales strategy, and inventory management. Walk away with the skills and confidence to drive profitability in your business.Hunter Fike
23From Milk to Table: A Journey Into Cheesemaking PrinciplesLet us take you on this wonderful journey from milk to table: we will start learning about milk chemistry and the science behind milk coagulation before moving onto the cheesemaking parameters and how to control them. Starter culture systems, coagulants, phages, pH, temperature etc…will all be part of the story. We will finally discuss about milk & cheese flora and its impact on the sensory properties of the final cheese.Benedicte Coude, Aileen Kacvinsky, Pat Polowky
24Having the Hard Conversations: How to STRIVE in your workplaceFor many Americans, much of our socialization, much of our interaction with others, happens at work. If we are lucky, we have people at work we can relate to, with whom we can share some of our lives. Many are not that lucky. Many folks find themselves stuck in stressful situations where they feel they have no out. No way of making anything better.

STRIVE fixes that. When you follow STRIVE, you create the space for the hard conversations, transformation and growth that needs to happen to convert from a workplace culture of “not my job,” “that’s above my pay grade,” “no one will notice” and general disengagement to a culture where everyone understands how the company creates its product, where they stand in the process, and how they contribute to quality products being shipped, which results in everyone’s paycheck.

STRIVE is a systematic approach to understanding where your culture is flagging and creating drag. STRIVE is about implementing the tools of emotional adulthood at work.
Michele Pfannenstiel
25Open Networking: Raw Milk Cheese Food Safety Plans
Hosted by at least two food safety experts, this networking session will be structured around the general outline of a food safety plan for cheesemaking with the chance discuss and evaluate CCP’s and Process Controls along the way. The steps in cheese making are known well but every cheese and facility has differences which raise specific questions related to food safety plans. Cheesemakers are invited to discuss their very specific experiences, challenges and concerns as the group moves through a generic plan. The hosting experts will be there to help with plan design and or any technical questions that come up in the discussion of working with a raw milk cheese.Dennis D'Amico, Dr. Kerry E. Kaylegian, Marianne Smukowski
26Washed Rind Cheese is For LoversWashed rind cheeses are lovingly referred to as “bathing beauties” possessing the aroma of “angels’ feet;” connotations that denote endearment with a healthy side of mischief. In this ode to the category of washed rind cheeses, we’ll review the historic origins of the style and some of the current-day scientific findings around washed rind development and the microflora responsible for producing the fecund aromas that draw aficionados like us in while chasing our friends and relatives away. We’ll then go on to present novel consumer research on preconceived attitudes and preferences around washed rind cheeses while asking you to contribute by tasting and ranking some of the very cheeses that were used in the study.Ann Colonna, Bill Stephenson
27Introduction to Lean ManagementIf you want to learn how to drive improvement and take your organization to a whole new level, this is the right session for you.

As the name indicates, we will provide an introduction to Lean Management, which originated in the Toyota Production System. You may ask (and rightly so!), what does an automotive company know about cheese? And the answer is, probably very little. However, they do know the importance of having reliable processes to make high quality products. They know that people are critical to a company’s performance. They recognize that the right culture is an enabler of long-term success. And, they understand that continuously improving products and the processes to make them, is the best way to satisfy customers and stay ahead of the competition. These are basic principles that apply to every organization.

But this session is not about Toyota. We will introduce Lean to provide some background, but the bulk of the time will be spent on three case studies. Mateo Kehler from Jasper Hill, David Lockwood from Neal’s Yard Dairy, and Lisa Roberts from Zingerman’s Mail Order will take us on a tour of their Lean journeys to show us how Lean principles can be applied in companies like yours. Finally, we will conclude with a panel discussion and a Q&A session to get your perspective and address any question you may have.
Eduardo Lander, David Lockwood, Andy Kehler, Lisa Roberts
28Happiness is the Only Logical PursuitTraditional business models often work for larger businesses, but leave smaller and mid-sized businesses behind. At smaller, independent (or "family-sized") businesses in our industry, owners often struggle with staff turnover, owner and worker exhaustion and burnout, tight margins and many other recurring challenges. The advantage that smaller and independent businesses have in overcoming these problems is the ability to be flexible––to try new ways of doing things and to try them quickly.

In this session we'll examine creative solutions to issues that smaller independent businesses face. Cooperative businesses in our industry are known for their longevity and their people-first approach. While a fully cooperative business model may not be right for your business, taking inspiration from a cooperative approach can help to alleviate recurring issues and create more happiness and less stress at all levels of the business. We’ll look within our industry at The Cheese Board Collective as a case study, and also examine the ways that the for-profit tech industry has adopted cooperative philosophies within a more traditional framework with great success.
Omri Avraham, Linh Nguyen, Elena Santogade
29DZTA: Affinage - A Meta-Analysis of Global researchThe 2018 DZTA scholarship recipient, Eric Meredith, will be presenting his findings based on the pertinent affinage and cheese related issues we are seeing around the USA today. Eric travelled to Europe and dove deep into research to gather information relating to some of the most troublesome issues in cheese. He discovered methodologies that can be duplicated and has put together a session to help all of us understand the root cause and preventive measures necessary to overcome some of these issues so we can all focus on the best attributes of our favorite cheeses. This session will dive deep into the scientific approach researchers use to make strides in this ‘ever-evolving’ industry and explore models that can help us collaborate more in the future with academia and specialists around the world.Eric Meredith
30How Sweet Are You?Dive deep into the elements of sensory evaluation to gauge your threshold for the five tastes on the tongue and to gain a better understanding of your palate. Join sensory expert Russell Smith to find out just how differently we all experience flavors. But, before you can understand the flavors in food, you need to understand your palate. This session is ticketed, and treated like a tasting session without the cheese. The session will be held 3 times during conference, and the capacity is limited to 15 participants per session. There is an additional fee of $25.Russell Smith
31Open Networking: RetailersOpportunities to connect and network with industry colleagues organized by theme. These are facilitated discussions.Rich Rogers
32Historic & Contemporary: Virginia's Unique Fermentation SceneThis tasting brings together a unique collection of Virginia-made artisan cheeses, craft beers and cured meats. The state, embracing a long history of food preservation and beverage production, features a vibrant contemporary community of cheesemakers, brewers, and cured meat artisans. The program emphasizes how Colonial ideas and techniques combine with today’s generation of leaders to create a wide array of fermented products. As we anticipate wonderful new beers, cheese, cured meats or wine, how do we nurture and preserve heritage animals, terroir, and pioneering techniques? How do these stories strengthen connections between producer and consumer?Sam Edwards III, Helen Feete, Eric McKay, Jeff Roberts
33Living Servant Leadership
Zingerman’s Innovative Approach to Management
Strong leadership and innovative management practices have been key to Zingerman’s success. In an era of increased competition and tight labor markets, a positive company culture and identity, together with an inspiring vision for the future, can have an enormous impact on customer and staff loyalty.

In this presentation, Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman’s Co-Founder and CEO, shares how Zingerman’s teaches and implements the philosophy of Servant Leadership, a management approach that focuses on the leader’s role in giving great service to individual staff—and to the organization as a whole.
Ari Weinzweig
34Receiving, Triage, & HandlingWe will cover receiving, triage and handling of cheese in a retail environment. Receiving will include: invoice accuracy and adjustment, recording lot numbers and temperatures and general health of the cheese. Triage will focus on applied techniques for rind maintenance and care. Handling will then cover storage and rotation of cheese until it gets to the retail case. These techniques will not only improve cheese health, they will improve your margin.Erin Clancy, Steve Jones, Everett Presley
35Whey Biogas Production - A Way to IndependenceWhey management is an important consideration for cheesemakers. Often as a cheesemaking operation considers expansion, how to manage the whey by-product of cheese making is an important consideration. Whey powder production requires great expense and very large scale. Another method of using whey which can be cost effective is to utilize microbes to convert whey into gas fuel and potable water.

In this Session we will learn about some the basic concepts behind this process and be guided through a decision tree as to which type of system and scale would be most applicable to a given amount and type of whey production. Experiences of the Beaufort Consortium and Abbey Tamie in France will be presented along with examples of active whey biogas plants in Wisconsin and Quebec. This session is designed to show examples of how biogas production both large and small can help not just the cheesemakers bottom line but reduce the carbon footprint of cheesemaking.
Henry Probst, Jeremy Stephenson
36Open Networking: Supply ChainOpportunities to connect and network with industry colleagues organized by theme. These are facilitated discussions.TBD
37Deep Dive: Essential Principles of CheesemakingThis back-to-basics look at cheesemaking will reinforce critical factors that cheesemakers of all levels should understand in order to be successful at making a consistent, quality cheese. You will learn how to set up and maintain a starter culture program, steps for controlling moisture and acidity during the cheesemaking process, and how and when to measure moisture and acidity of the cheeseAndy Johnson, Gina Mode, Dean Sommer
38Cheese Defects: When Does a Quality Issue Become a Food Safety Issue?Cheeses by their very nature have diverse appearances than can make you ask the question “Is this cheese supposed to look like that and is it safe?” Quality defects are easy to see and taste, while the most of the safety agents that make people sick cannot be seen. In this session, you’ll learn what constitutes a public safety issue and which cheeses are more likely to be a safety concern. We’ll review the practices that a cheesemaker uses to controls safety and quality, and highlight what the cheesemonger needs to do to maintain the quality and safety of the cheeses they receive from the maker. Using several example cheeses, we’ll look, smell and taste attributes contributing to cheese quality that can serve as indicators of when to be on the lookout for safety problems. These examples will serve as a focal point for discussion of how manufacturing and storage practices contribute to quality and safety issues for some cheeses that commonly exhibit quality defects that may be confused with safety issues, and for other cheeses that are that are considered to be a safety concern but may be overlooked because the don’t exhibit severe quality issues that would make someone avoid eating them.Dr. Stephanie Clark, Dr. Kerry E. Kaylegian
39At The Vat ...Cheesemaking is a physically, mentally, & emotionally challenging job, and as a young cheesemaker it is very easy to be swayed behind the scenes or into another avenue of the cheese industry. Listen to the stories of career cheesemakers and what has driven them to remain at the vat, day in and day out over the decades. These stories are from the people who are some of the few pioneers of the American artisan cheese movement.Alyce Birchenough, Peter Dixon, Helen Feete, Vito Forte
40Emotional Value and the Commodity Chain: The Ethos of CheesemongeringA commodity’s value is created through the social exchanges that make up the supply chain. Value continues to grow as products reach the consumer, and even after they have been purchased and eaten! The role of the cheesemonger is to ensure that this emotional value is realized for the customer - money is not the only currency we exchange when we buy and sell artisan cheese. Using anthropological concepts and the unique perspectives of three industry members, this session examines the role of retailers and distributors in creating and expressing the emotional and social value of cheese.Ann Campbell, Rachel Juhl, Emilio Mignucci
41Scaling Up Cheese Production : Transitioning From a Local or One Off Featured Product to Larger Distribution and Retail Core PlacementNo matter where you work in world of cheese, the question of when to transition a product into wider distribution and placement on a chain-wide core list can perplex even experienced professionals. While many push to go chain-wide as quickly as possible, the pitfalls of scaling up production are real. A panel discussion of cheesemakers, retailers, and distributors addressing the realistic steps and the pros and cons of doing so.Zoe Brickley, Christopher Eastwood, Andy Hatch, Jessica Little
42Open Networking: CanadiansOpportunities to connect and network with industry colleagues organized by theme. These are facilitated discussions.Kelsie Parsons