UMaine Graduate Student Collaborates with Cheese Maker on Omega-3 Fortified Cheese

Contact: Brianna Hughes, 207-837-2872

ORONO – What do goats and fish have in common?  Not much until UMaine graduate student Brianna Hughes and Seal Cove Farm proprietor Barbara Brooks got together to talk about fortifying goat cheese with highly purified omega-3-rich fish oil.

The project, funded by Maine Technology Institute, blends the mission of the University of Maine and the focus of its Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition to deliver a new line of heart-healthy artisan cheese for Seal Cove Farm.

Seal Cove Farm, established in 1976, is situated in Lamoine, Maine and produces approximately 700 pounds of cheese per week in season. The farm continually offers new varieties of cheese and is expanding to anticipate consumer demands.

As one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry, omega-3 fish oil research is one of the focuses in associate professor of food science and human nutrition Denise Skonberg’s lab in Hitchner Hall. Her graduate student Brianna Hughes has been working on omega-3 fortification of cheese as part of her master’s thesis project, and when the opportunity to work with Brooks was presented by Beth Calder, food science specialist with UMaine’s Cooperative Extension, it was a perfect fit for everyone, according to Skonberg.

The cheese is made with fresh milk from Seal Cove Farm, using the farm’s proprietary recipe for a creamy goat cheese more commonly called chevre.  It is a three-day process from the time the milk is pasteurized, cultured, set and separated; it is this lengthy process that produces the celebrated Seal Cove Farm chevre.  The combination of a healthy, calcium-rich cheese, plus the addition of omega-3-rich oil is now ready for consumer feedback.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m., a public tasting of four of the omega-3 fortified cheeses was scheduled at the Consumer Testing Center, Room 158, Hitchner Hall. The sensory test gauges consumer interest in the fortified cheese, as well as to see how consumers like the addition of the omega-3 oil.