The Word on the Curd

every deep-fried delicacy at Culver's comes from LaGrander's Hillside Dairy right here in west-central Wisconsin

Sammy Gibbons

Unspeakable delights from Culver’s.
Unspeakable delights from Culver’s.

Wisconsinites love the deep-fried hunks of cheese found at almost every restaurant in our fine Dairy State. One of these, a homegrown franchise that has spread across the Midwest and beyond, is the beloved Culver’s. They serve up Butterburgers, creamy frozen custard and, of course, crunchy white-and-orange fried curds. These delicacies boast the label “Wisconsin Cheese Curds,” and the ads claim they are made with real Wisconsin cheese. But are they really made in Wisconsin? Yes, they are. Better yet, the curds come from right here in west-central Wisconsin. LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy in Stanley is the mastermind behind these cheesy creations.

“I think we fit in well with the Culver’s philosophy of quality products from a family business supporting local farmers. Also, Wisconsin is known for producing some of the best cheese in the world, so buying from Wisconsin cheese manufacturers is a great choice.” – Ryan LaGrander, LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy

The dairy has been a cheese business since the early 1900s, and has been owned by the LaGrander family for most of that time: Plant manager/owner Ryan LaGrander is the third-generation owner of the business, taking after his grandfather, Dannie, who bought the dairy in 1960. LaGrander’s has been awarded various prizes for its American-style cheeses, and its curds are known as “the best fresh cheese curds around,” according to the company’s website. Since the 1990s, LaGrander’s have been making bulk frozen cheese curds which are sold to companies that add batter to create the deep-fryable goodies used by Culver’s. According to Ryan LaGrander, approximately 25 percent of the curds the dairy produces are shipped on a weekly basis to Culver’s restaurants. That’s roughly 3.5 million pounds of 2-inch chunks of cheese annually!

“LaGrander’s has been a supplier for our cheese curds for many years,” said Paul Pitas, Culver’s director of public relations and communications. “They provide a great product that is fairly priced and always consistent in quality.”

LAGRANDER'S HILLSIDE DAIRY, STANLEY
LAGRANDER'S HILLSIDE DAIRY, STANLEY

LaGrander’s is not the only business that Culver’s buys cheese from – the restaurant relies on different suppliers with expertise in various types of cheese making – but LaGrander’s is their sole curd supplier. Pitas mentioned that the restaurant values finding local sources for ingredients – especially cheese (after all, they are based in the Dairy State). LaGrander’s also sells to various other buyers, including walk-in shoppers at a store in Stanley, but they appreciate the great relationship with Culver’s.

“I think we fit in well with the Culver’s philosophy of quality products from a family business supporting local farmers,” Ryan LaGrander said. “Also, Wisconsin is known for producing some of the best cheese in the world, so buying from Wisconsin cheese manufacturers is a great choice.”

Pitas said that Culver’s employees visit LaGrander’s Dairy frequently to check up on business, and LaGrander stated how much he enjoys working with the company and hopes that the next generations of LaGrander cheese makers continues to do so. If you love Culver’s cheese curds as much as I do, you will also hope that the fryer stays hot in this cheesy relationship.

LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy • W11299 Broek Road, Stanley • store hours: Monday-Friday 8am-5pm; Saturdays until noon • (715) 644-2275 • lagranderscheese.com