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Golden Fleece expands line to meet demand

The dairy's owner wants to avoid mass marketing, but more people want products that include his company's natural ingredients.

By JORGE SANCHEZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

LECANTO -- For 20 years, Golden Fleece Dairy has been supplying its own brand of goat milk and related dairy products, such as yogurt shakes, mainly to health food and gourmet stores. Now the small company has started making its own goat cheese.

By increasing its products, the business is growing to meet the demands of the health-food market, which wants great tasting food that isn't artificial.

But at the same time, dairy owner Glen Norton wants to stay within the relatively small niche of alternative or health foods.

"We are trying not to position our product in the mass market," Norton said. "You won't find Golden Fleece in a Publix or any other large supermarket."

For Golden Fleece, that means producing goat and cow milk that is nonhomogenized and does not contain preservatives, hormones or antibiotics.

Though the milk is pasteurized, it's a low-heat process that does not destroy the natural enzymes or vitamins contained in raw milk, Norton said.

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to destroy potentially harmful bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli. Homogenization is the process of agitating raw milk to break down the fat, or cream, into small pieces that cannot re-form.

In raw milk, the cream floats to the top of the container and can either be removed for skim milk or shaken back into the milk for whole milk.

Golden Fleece is the state's only dairy that makes cheese from Grade A milk, Norton said. The goat cheese includes a soft, French-style chevre, often blended with other ingredients such as strawberry-cinnamon, basil, garlic or onion. Norton said the cheese is best sliced into medallions and served cold.

"It's been received very well," Norton said. "We ship to 22 states."

Due to Golden Fleece's stature in the health food business, the dairy is also a wholesale distributor to other national health food brands, such as Cabot Creamery in Vermont and Natural by Nature.

By teaming up with other health food producers, Golden Fleece trucks can carry a balanced shipment of natural foods that includes vegetables, milk and cheese. "Florida has more health food stores per capita than any other state," Norton said.

Golden Fleece products are available at Crystal River Wine and Cheese Shop and at Nature's Bounty health food store in Inverness and at the dairy, 1500 W Sunturf St., Lecanto. Call 628-2688 in Citrus, and toll-free 1-888-628-2688 in other parts of the state.

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