My Tour of the Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory & Happy National Ice Cream Day/Month!
Well, to celebrate this wonderful occasion, Turkey Hill Dairy, one of my favorite ice cream companies, contacted me to attend a tour of their factory in Lancaster, PA. That’s only about a two hour drive from DC, so the Junk Food Gal and woke up at 6:30am (ON A SUNDAY), fueled up the old Junk Food Mobile, and hit the road!
Don’t be fooled by the light streaming in from the window. It was early. I was exhausted. This is a fake smile. Definitely grumpy, hence the T-shirt.
You know, it’s surprising how few cars are on the road before 8:00am on a Sunday. Especially as you drive through middle-of-nowhere Maryland, into only sort-of-middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. The town of Lancaster, PA, where Turkey Hill resides, reminds me SO MUCH of my home town I grew up in. Sigh.
Once we got to the Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory…
BIG SILOS AND LOTS OF WAREHOUSES! Yeah, this was going to be a legit tour, not just some fan-experience thing, I was stoked. As I pulled up, I immediately thought ARE THOSE HUGE SILOS FULL OF ICE CREAM??? I was told later they weren’t and to stop asking that question.
One of the first things I DID find out however was that Turkey Hill began in 1931 and that their original corporate office was a small house that was right next door to the factory. Plus, they use these HUGE wind turbines to help power some of the factory. ENVIRO-CONSCIOUS ICE CREAM! I love it.
OOOH YEAH. Since I was going to be heading out onto the plant floor, I had to don a hairnet, lab coat, and goggles. Plus, an earpiece to hear our tour guide. By the way, that cooler behind me full of Turkey Hill Drinks? COMPLIMENTARY. I considered how many I could guzzle before taking the tour, but realized that I’d be in the bathroom all morning if I did that. Tempting, though.
Oh yeah, and I had to slip steel toed bootcaps over my sneakers. This was some serious business right here.
I definitely sort of felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s factory. WHAT’S A SNOZZBERRY!?
Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory employee locker room! This is either a dairy factory, or a military bunker. You decide.
COW TOYS! Of course I had to take a picture of this. We hadn’t even made it to the factory floor and I’d already shot about 60 photos. Of course.
So within the Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory, the employees often walk through a puddle of ice cream to feel one-with-the-company. Actually, this is sanitizer solution that you drag your feet through as you enter each factory room, to clean off your feet and reduce/eliminate carrying bad stuff from one room to the next. I feel like my government office building needs a moat of this.
Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory was full of fancy machines like this. NUMBERS TIME! Turkey Hill makes about 27 million gallons of ice cream per year (WOW). The milk that is used to make it comes from two local dairy co-ops, and contain no antibiotics…and this milk gets picked up by 6000 gallon tanker trucks, poured into 60,000 gallon containers, and then syphoned into these 12,000 gallon milk tanks (as seen above!) /End educational portion. That means if I grabbed one of those hoses, I COULD SPRAY YOU WITH 12,000 GALLONS OF MILK! That’s…that’s a lot of gallons.
Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory has an ice cream supervisor. I imagine this man/woman to be the equivalent of the “Time to make the donuts” guy in the old Dunkin Donuts commercials.
By the way, the tour also went through the Turkey Hill Iced Tea section, and it DEFINITELY smelled like tea all around. My skin was percolating when we left.
Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory also huge mixing machines like this! “Mix” is the liquid base of ice cream – the milk, the cream, the ….um…well, whatever else was in it. Whey powder? That was one too. Anyways, it’s basically the stuff that you make at home with little kids when you’re prepping your ice cream maker. Except this one chugs out 50,000 gallons of mix daily! Which is good, because our tour guide informed us that Turkey Hill only gives a 72 hour life to its milk – by 72 hours it either has to be made into ice cream or bottled. Employees adhere to this timeline – or else they get SPRAYED WITH 12,000 GALLONS OF MILK. C’mon, it’s not funny this time either? You guys are curmudgeons.
This is a “super sack” of Whey Powder that apparently weighs 2000 lbs. Uh, ok. It’s bigger than me. I know I’m short but wow. By the way, it’s the hairnet flattering? I look like I have an external brain.
Finally made it to the packaging part of the Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory! The machine above was amazing, squirting gallons and gallons of, here, vanilla ice cream into the familiar Turkey Hill tubs. Interestingly, the ice cream piped out here was only about 18-21 degrees…so not fully hard yet. More like soft serve consistency.
Our tour guide grabbed a container, and scraped a huge clump using the lid for us to try. Such a good vanilla! Tasted even better splattered all around my lips. From now on, I am only eating ice cream via ice cream lid.
There were a lot of temperatures being thrown around, like the fact that rock hard ice cream is usually at -20 degrees, and that 6 degrees is the usually when ice cream is in the right state to be eaten. Still below freezing though.
Like a scene out of Unwrapped, the Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory was chugging along, even on a Sunday! Incredible. Where’s Lucille Ball when you need her?
The factory had plenty of areas where the mix-ins could be found…huge vats of peanut butter, like the one above, as well as plenty of machines designed to take the solid mix-ins, like cookie dough pieces, etc.
I believe this machine was squirting out Salted Caramel…
…yup, Salted Caramel. NOM. If you think this looked good….IT WAS. I know this is your dream, On Second Scoop…
…and this was my fantasy. That guy was dumping a HUGE VAT of caramel into the salted caramel machine. Holy mother of….I mean, LOOK AT IT! I could live in there. Happily.
AND AWAY THEY GO! BTW, if you’re wondering why some tubs are upside down…it’s because they fit better together that way! Essentially an ice cream tub is wider at the top, smaller at the bottom, so to save space, they pack them one up, one down, one up, one down…
…like this! Pretty cool, huh? By the way, THAT IS A HELL OF A LOT OF ICE CREAM. But that’s not all…
This area here was a -12 room at the Turkey Hill Dairy Ice Cream Factory. That’s -12 Fahrenheit, people, NOT celsius. IT WAS DAMN COLD IN HERE. But all that you see are HUGE pallets of finished ice cream, waiting to be shipped out the door. LEGIT.Our tour guide said there were above 4000 pallets in there, all just like the one I showed you earlier.
And this is a look at what comprises the pallets – lots of bundles of ice cream like the one I’m holding. It was surprisingly solid, and light. Easy to run out the door, into the parking lot, and away with…er…nevermind.
Me and the president of Turkey Hill, Quintin Frey! The man behind the curtain, himself! We got to have a very nice Q & A with him, and he told us all about the history of Turkey Hill and some of the operational aspects behind the scenes.
I told him they ought to make ice cream sandwiches. He told me they did. Dangit, Junk Food Guy, do your research! I felt like this:
“You…you remember when you…you made that Salted Caramel Ice Cream? …..that was awesome.”
After lunch, we headed downtown to check out the Turkey Hill Experience, the fan-consumer based museum/gift shop/etc.
Because it was National Ice Cream Day, everything was free! They had a flavor available that had been suggested to me by many, their Phillies Graham Slam! It was…absurdly good. Also absurdly good was…
…their black raspberry chocolate chip.
I must admit, I am a sucker for cheesy oversized things, like this HUGE tub of ice cream I’m standing in front of which doubles as a small movie theater.
Turkey Hill also had a taste lab, which is apparently a new experience, where you get to make your own flavor of ice cream!
They had tons of flavorings, and mix-ins, and syrups to choose from!
I made something called “Junk Food Guy Post Workout Smoothie!” It contained strawberry and banana ice cream, toffee chips, pretzel balls, peanut butter syrup, strawberry syrup, caramel and butterscotch. The flavor scientists led us through how to make our flavor, what things to consider, etc.
I’m not gonna lie, they warned us about overdoing it with the flavor mix-ins. They were right. I tried my creation hours later after some time spent in my freezer, and it tasted awful. What was I thinking?? Lesson learned, kiddies – less is more.
EVERYWHERE THERE WAS FREE ICE CREAM! It was hard not to just push this freezer into the parking lot towards my car…
SEE??? I TOLD YOU I LIKED OVERSIZED THINGS!! I NEVER MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHEESE IT UP!
Anyways, it was a wonderful day, and I hope you enjoyed seeing what I saw! Thanks to Turkey Hill, and everyone I met, especially Allison from PR/Marketing, for making this happen. And thanks to Quintin Frey for having such an amazing company!
Hope you had a good National ICe Cream Day, Junk Food Nation!
Sincerely, Junk Food Guy