WASHINGTON, January 23, 2022—The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) today recognized the remarkable leadership of Ed Mullins, Senior Executive Officer of Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., and Dan Zagzebski, President & CEO of Great Lakes Cheese, by honoring each with the IDFA Laureate Award during the association’s annual Dairy Forum. Now in its third year, the IDFA Laureate Award is given to a leader in the dairy industry who has made significant, prolonged contributions to the development and growth of dairy. Candidates from across the dairy industry as well as suppliers and academics are eligible, and the awardee is chosen by a panel of industry professionals.

Ed Mullins began his career with Prairie Farms in 1980 and rose to become the cooperative’s Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President before stepping into his current role as Senior Executive Officer earlier this year. Mullins was only the fourth chief executive in the 80-year history of the Illinois based farmer-owned dairy cooperative. Before his appointment to the CEO position in 2006, Mullins served in various key executive management positions within the company. Mullins sits on several industry-related boards including IDFA, IICA, MilkPEP, Milk Industry Foundation, and Missouri Grocers Association. In July 2018, he was inducted into the Missouri Grocers Association Hall of Fame. In 2014, Mullins received the IDFA Soaring Eagle Award for his extraordinary leadership in the dairy industry.

“Ed is someone who has defined the dairy industry for several generations,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “He is deeply respected by colleagues and peers. He has a deep faith and commitment to his family. He has taken Prairie Farms from a regional player to a national brand through his dedication to product innovation and building relationships for the farmer owners. IDFA is so pleased to present Ed with our organization’s highest honor, the IDFA Laureate Award.”

“It’s an honor and humbling to be recognized by IDFA for this prestigious award,” said Mullins. “I have truly been blessed and fortunate to work with so many great people in the dairy industry and have the support of Prairie Farms producers and employees.”

Dan Zagzebski has been with Great Lakes Cheese for 15 years and served as President and CEO since 2015. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience. His focus on infrastructure and innovation has enabled the company to be a leader in cheese packaging and manufacturing in the United States. Prior to his current role as President and CEO, Zagzebski held various positions of increasing responsibility, including Chief Operations Officer and Vice President of Sales and Product Development. Zagzebski joined the company when Great Lakes Cheese purchased Lemke Cheese and Packaging in Wausau, Wisconsin, where he was co-owner and CEO.

“Dan has brought smart growth, a commitment to innovation, and a mindset of giving back to his employees and communities wherever Great Lakes Cheese is located,” said Dykes. “He is an exemplary leader who has made a lasting impact not only for Great Lakes Cheese, but for the dairy industry more broadly. As chair of the IDFA Executive Council, Dan oversaw the transformation of IDFA’s governance model and transition to a more inclusive organization representing the entire dairy supply chain. I’m pleased to present Dan with the IDFA Laureate Award in recognition of his many contributions to the growth of the dairy industry."

“I am honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award,” said Zagzebski. “I share this award with my Great Lakes Cheese family and our owners, the Epprecht Family. Thank you to everyone involved in the dairy industry for creating a unified community where all of us can feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Previous recipients of the IDFA Laureate Award are Sue Taylor, vice president of dairy economics and policy for Leprino Foods Company (2021), and Andrei Mikhalevsky, former president and CEO of California Dairies, Inc. (2020).

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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3.3 million jobs that generate $41.6 billion in direct wages and $753 billion in overall economic impact. IDFA’s diverse membership ranges from multinational organizations to single-plant companies, from dairy companies and cooperatives to food retailers and suppliers, all on the cutting edge of innovation and sustainable business practices. Together, they represent 90 percent of the milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and cultured products, and dairy ingredients produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world. Delicious, safe and nutritious, dairy foods offer unparalleled health and consumer benefits to people of all ages.

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