Alice Crawford

Alice Crawford

R&D Technologist, Puhoi Valley Cheese

In a nutshell: Making and developing new types of cheese.

Why? "Making cheese is fun and you get to play with lots of cool equipment."

Pathway: Roncalli College, final year subjects: Biology, Economics, Geography, Music, PE, Statistics
University of Otago: Three week bridging course in Chemistry; Bachelor of Science (Honours), majoring in Food Science

Earning: $45-60,000

Everybody likes to eat and developing new cheeses makes eating exciting. I got interested in the food industry when I had a job at McDonalds as a teenager. I also worked there as a manager during a 'gap year' before starting a degree in Food Science.

Because everybody has to eat I thought the food industry would be a good industry to get into – I wanted to get training in something that would have a job at the end of it.

I work for Puhoi Valley Cheese. Making cheese is fun and you get to play with lots of cool equipment. Every batch of cheese is different because living organisms are involved – meeting the challenge of maintaining consistency between batches gives me real satisfaction.

My everyday tasks include taking samples and doing lab work, completing regulatory paperwork for the products, and running trials. I work on a variety of projects from extending the shelf life of products – especially for export – to improving manufacturing efficiency and developing new products.

One of my most exciting projects was a new blue cheese. They take quite a long time to manufacture so you have to be organised a long way ahead. Watching my products develop from milk into a living food is really awesome.

I enjoyed statistics and science when I was at school, and I get to use those skills to test and analyse samples, and to communicate the results.

Biology, especially microbiology, is important as cheese making relies on the cultivation of good bacteria and the prevention of bad bacteria. Chemistry is also essential as the pH needs to be monitored carefully during the cheese making process, as does the fat, protein, moisture and salt content.

As well as having a scientific approach, being the sort of person who asks questions and wanting to work with cheese, it's important to have good computer skills and to like documenting things. I also enjoy the regulatory side of cheese manufacturing, ensuring that correct procedures are followed and completing the paper work.

In the future I could choose to focus on product development work or move into the quality assurance side of the food industry.

Posted June 2012

Follow this pathway:

Degree in Food Science or Technology

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