Frequently Asked Questions
We truly appreciate your interest in Bleating Heart and learning more about us and our cheese production. Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. If your question is not answered here, please use the contact link on the top menu bar and we will do our best to get back to you. You can learn about our history under the stories tab above. If you are a member of the media please use the contact link on the top menu bar of our website and be sure to select 'media' from the drop down menu.
- DO YOU OFFER CREAMERY TOURS? We would love to meet you and do hope to welcome visitors in the future. We are so busy juggling cheesemaking and affinage that we cannot offer tours as this time.
- DO YOU OFFER DAIRY or FARM TOURS? We do not milk any animals or operate a dairy. We make cheese and operate a creamery. Our creamery is located on a dairy farm, but we do not own, operate, or reside on that farm.
- WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE WHEY? Whey is a natural and nutritious byproduct of cheesemaking that can be used for many purposes. Currently 100% of our whey goes to feed the free range pigs at Clark Summit Farm just a few miles from our creamery. They raise a variety of heritage breeds on their farm, all fed with whey from several area cheesemakers.
- DO YOU EVER MAKE SHEEP RICOTTA WITH YOUR WHEY? Currently we do not have enough space in our creamery to add the production of ricotta, so we send all of our whey to the pigs mentioned above. Occasionally we save some whey to take home and make ricotta in our kitchen, but this is only for personal use - and it is amazingly delicious! Because it is so delicious, we do plan to make ricotta for commercial sale in the future, but it will have to wait until we move into a larger creamery. Bellwether Farms, our cheese neighbor about 7 miles north, makes fantastic ricotta that can be found at many retailers.
DAIRY SHEEP & SHEEP MILK
- DO YOU SELL SHEEP MILK? We do not produce milk, nor do we offer milk for sale. All of the milk we buy is immediately turned into cheese. Nearly all sheep dairies in North America either have all of their milk under contract, or they use 100% of their milk for their own products. Also, it is not permissible for a dairy to sell milk directly to the general public unless it is bottled in a licensed milk products plant. In order to purchase bulk milk from a dairy, you must have the required licenses, which can be obtained from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. If you are a consumer wishing to purchase bottled sheep milk, please visit the Haverton Hill Creamery website.
- DO YOU SELL DAIRY SHEEP? We do not operate a dairy or raise any dairy sheep, we are cheesemakers. All of our sheep milk is supplied by two local dairies: Black Oaks Sheep Dairy which is located on the Williams Ranch and is owned and operated by Rex & Kerry Williams, and Marshall Home Ranch & Dairy which is located on the Thornton Ranch and is owned and operated by Marissa Thornton (the Thornton Ranch is also the location of our creamery).
- I WANT TO MILK SHEEP/START A DAIRY - WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE? We are not dairy farmers, we do not operate a dairy. We are cheesemakers, we operate a creamery and make cheese. We continue to get a lot of inquiries from folks who want to volunteer with us to get experience with sheep dairying. We do not personally raise or milk any animals (we have 2 wiener dogs, but we don't milk them). The best advice we can offer is to spend some time visiting as many sheep dairies as possible, as well as other dairies, and make sure you have enough capital to get started, and also enough to operate once you do get started. The Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative has some useful info on their site.
CHEESEMAKING JOBS & INTERNSHIPS
- DO YOU OFFER INTERNSHIPS/APPRENTICESHIPS or ACCEPT VOLUNTEERS? Currently we are just too busy to train anyone, even if you are working for free. We are not set up to take any interns or volunteers at this time, but that may change in the future. If and when things change and we can accept volunteers, we will post info about it here and on our Facebook page. We continue to get inquiries from people wanting to get dairy and milking and animal husbandry experience.....that's not what we do. We are not dairy farmers, we do not operate a dairy. We are cheesemakers, we operate a creamery and make cheese. Yes we keep repeating ourselves about this, yet people keep emailing us about wanting to work in the dairy that we do not have.
- I WANT TO BE A CHEESEMAKER, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE? If you are interested in becoming a cheesemaker, the internet is a great resource for locating cheesemaking seminars and courses, as well as books on cheesemaking and textbooks on cheese microbiology and dairy science. We also strongly recommend that you start familiarizing yourself with all the cheeses of the world and the various types and styles, which can be done by reading, tasting, or better yet - get a part time job at a cheese shop/cheese counter! Join the California Artisan Cheese Guild to get access to classes and networking opportunities with other cheesemakers, or if you are another part of the country, look for your nearest regional cheese guild and get involved.
- ARE YOUR CHEESES VEGETARIAN / WHAT TYPE OF RENNET DO YOU USE? We use traditional rennet (aka animal rennet) in our cheese production. This may not be compatible with the lifestyle of some vegetarians, but the reality is that animal rennet is widely considered to be the best choice for aged cheeses. The so-called "vegetarian" rennet that is commercially available is derived from mold (or in some cases from GMO's) and these types of coagulants can potentially lead to unpleasant bitter flavors in aged cheeses. Traditional animal-derived rennet contains enzymes which help to complete the breakdown of milk proteins - a process called proteolysis, if you want to get really technical - and this is what leads to the most desirable flavor notes found in aged cheeses. This is one reason why some of the most famous cheeses in the world, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Roquefort, Pecorino Romano, Manchego, Swiss Emmenthaler...are all made with traditional animal-derived rennet. To help put things in a different perspective...1 gallon of sheep milk makes about 1.5 lbs of cheese; the amount of rennet we use is less than 1/8 of a teaspoon per gallon, and most of the rennet is removed with the whey after the curd is cut and drained. How much cheese would you eat at one time, and how much rennet are you really consuming? You may want to consider this when making decisions about whether or not to eat our cheese, or any others, and decide if it's worth the depravation!
- ARE YOUR CHEESES OKAY FOR PEOPLE WITH FOOD ALLERGIES? Well, that depends on what you are allergic to, but please consult your doctor if you are in doubt about eating any cheese. Our cheese is made with 4 ingredients: milk, salt, and a trace amount of starter culture and rennet - that's it. We use Diamond brand Kosher salt. The rennet we use comes from Dairy Connection in Wisconsin and is used at the rate mentioned above. The lactic acid bacterial cultures we use are manufactured by Danisco in France, and we use up to 25 grams of culture per 100 gallons of milk, or 1/4 gram per gallon.
- ARE YOUR CHEESES OKAY FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE LACTOSE INTOLERANT? Some people avoid cheese because they have, or believe they have, a lactose intolerance. Some people also think that if they are lactose intolerant, they must avoid cow milk products but can consume goat and sheep milk products with no ill effects. While we are of course happy that anyone is interested in eating more sheep milk cheese, let's get things straight: ALL MILK HAS LACTOSE regardless of species. This includes cows, goats, sheep, water buffalo, and humans. However, the good news is that most cheeses, especially aged cheeses (of any milk type), have very little lactose. Most lactose is converted to lactic acid during the cheesemaking and aging process. Consult your doctor of course, and definitely do your research on the facts about true lactose intolerance, but no need to completely deprive yourself of one of life's great food delights!
- WHAT DO YOU FEED THE DAIRY ANIMALS WHO PRODUCE THE MILK? The sheep and cows who produce the milk that goes into our cheese consume mostly grass. However, grass alone is not enough to keep lactating animals well-fed, and the quality and quantity of grass varies with the seasons and amount of rainfall. The ewes and cows must be kept on a high plane of nutrition and consume enough calories while lactating, just like humans. Their diets are supplemented to ensure enough energy intake to keep them healthy, and also to achieve a good ratio of fat to protein in the milk, which is important for cheesemaking. Besides pasture grasses and forbs, they are also fed alfalfa hay, as well as a small amount of a special blend twice a day when they are in the milking parlor. For the lactating girls, this blend is like dessert! This blend varies depending upon season and availability of the ingredients, but may contain some or all of the following ingredients: almond hulls, oats, molasses, alfalfa pellets and corn.
PRODUCT DONATIONS & COMMUNITY SERVICE
- CAN YOU DONATE CHEESE FOR OUR UPCOMING EVENT? We receive dozens of requests for donations each year, all from good causes, but we cannot say yes to everyone or else we’d run out of cheese! We support activities that are mutually rewarding for our community and our company, with priority going to events and partnerships that focus on local cheese and/or local food, beer & wine, dairying and agriculture. Requests that provide maximum exposure to our company and our cheeses are given precedence. Events are given more weight when they benefit a non-profit or similar organization. We are unable to respond to everyone, so if you don't hear from us, we are unable to fulfill your request. Please note we are not offering any cash donations or sponsorships at this time.
- HOW DO YOU GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY? Bleating Heart believes in the importance of supporting and giving back to the community that has helped our business grow. The owners, Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton, are active members of the California Artisan Cheese Guild, where Seana served on the Board of Directors for 5 years. Dave has served on the guild’s Cheesemaker Education Committee and the Regulatory Affairs Committee. Seana served on the original steering committee for the Sonoma-Marin Cheese Trail. Both Seana and Dave are also members of Slow Food USA and the American Cheese Society. We also make regular donations of time and cheese to various local organizations. Also, we are always happy to share information and advice with any aspiring cheesemakers!