Jason Williamson and Diane Williamson
While the axiom about not being able to teach old dogs new tricks may be up for debate, the same argument can’t apply to cows, or at least, those who work with cows.
After nearly 100 years in operation, Swan Bros Dairy, Inc. in Claremore now offers a new item to their variety of products: pasteurized milk.
“In the state of Oklahoma, if you sell raw milk, it has to be from the farm,” explained Diane Williamson, granddaughter of dairy founder, Harley Swan Sr. “This is actually an excellent law, I think, as it allows the consumer to see how the cows are treated, if they’re healthy, if the equipment is clean, and all that. Just to buy raw milk from a farmer’s market, the consumer really wouldn’t know where it came, the conditions of the cows, etc.
“Pasteurized milk is a milk that’s gone through a process to kill harmful pathogens and bacteria,” she said. “Here at Swans, we use low temperature vat pasteurization, which is a minimum of 145 degrees (Fahrenheit) for at least 30 minutes and just kills everything, any potential bacteria that could be in the milk.”
Williamson is quick to point out that Swan Bros Dairy, Inc. has been pasteurizing its cheese products ever since they’ve been offering it, but in recent months, the same process has been utilized to pasteurize milk as well.
“Pasteurized milk has a longer shelf life than raw milk, and whereas raw milk has to be sold at the farm, pasteurized milk can be sold in stores -- this is something our customers have been asking us to do for a while,” she said. “Also, the pasteurized milk isn’t homogenized, so there is a bit of cream at the top (of the milk).”
Swan Bros Dairy’s pasteurized milk is available in Claremore at Walke Brothers Meat, Claremore Market, and at the Tulsa and Broken Arrow locations of Harvard Meats.
Williamson said Swan is also partnering with Walke Brothers Meat to offer Swan’s farm-raised ground beef -- a new product item, which is 93 percent lean and has been selling “very well” since it was first offered in the fall of 2017.
And Swan’s all-natural cheeses remain a customer favorite, she said.
Just as Diane followed the footsteps of her father, Harley Jr., into the family business, so her children followed in her footsteps.
“I’ve been here since I was little -- I really enjoy it,” said Jason Williamson, Diane’s son and fourth generation dairy worker. “When I first started, my granddad said if I’m not enjoying myself, not to do it any more -- I know he told my mom the same thing, and we’re both still here. I started out just working (at the dairy) in the summers, and the more I did it, the more I grew to like it. It‘s just awesome, and the product is great. My favorite is the cheese curds.”
Also helping out at the family dairy are Diane’s daughter, Ashley, who recently graduated from OSU, and her husband, Zach.
“No fifth generation employees yet, though,” Diane laughed.
The Swan success story began in 1923, when husband and wife, Harley and Ruby Swan started the business with one cow.
As the years passed, the herd size increased and milk was delivered in glass bottles to routes in the Claremore area. In 1946, the milk route was sold, but not the cows, and as such, Swan milk was sold to a local processor. By 1951, Swan Dairy began selling Grade A Raw Milk in glass bottles at their farm in Claremore.
In 1962, the Swan’s sons, Harley Jr. and Larry, purchased the dairy from their parents and continued to market the milk directly to people in the Claremore Community, and ten years later, Harley Jr. and wife, Dorothy, purchased the entire operation.
In 1985, the dairy began production of Oklahoma Premium Cheese -- Colby variety, and later that same year, production of cheddar and hot pepper cheddar cheese was added. Mozzarella variety was added in 1992, and in 2000, Swan’s hickory smoked cheddar was added, with hickory smoked Colby variety becoming available in 2015.
Today, Swan Bros Dairy has expanded operations considerably since those early days, with “around 60” Holsteins, Jerseys, Brown Swiss and a combination thereof being milked twice daily. The family businesses has always been just that -- a family businesses -- handed down from Harley Sr. to Harley Jr., and in the spring of 2016, to Williamson and her husband, Don, when they purchased operations.
As a steward of the business started by her grandfather, Williamson’s thoughts on why the dairy has been so successful over the decades are simple as they are succinct.
“We have a healthy, natural product,” she said. “We produce, process, and market 100 percent of our milk and cheese products, and our customers know that they can depend on us for the highest quality milk and cheese available -- every time.”
Swan Dairy Bros, Inc. is located at 938 E. 5th Street in Claremore. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
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