Quality Assurance Trainee

Prairie Farms

Dubuque, IA

 There is travel required for this position. Prairie Farms has 50 operating plants throughout the United States. Candidate Must be willing to travel.


Multifaceted Dairy Employee Advancement Program

Purpose of Training Program: The purpose of this training program is to administer professional growth for an individual, whether they be a recent college graduate or established employee looking to advance themselves, into a successful asset in dairy quality assurance. This program lays out a step by step program to set the intended individual up for success in their new role.

Program Overview: This training program is set up with a base salary with increases as the training criteria steps listed below are achieved. There will be four sections to achieve, they are generally divided into Laboratory Procedures, Sanitation, Food Safety/Inspections and Operations/Dairy Business.

Prior to beginning the four sections listed below, there will be orientation weeks to familiarize the individual with food industry basics. These orientation weeks may vary depending on the individual and their experience, if any, in the food or dairy industry.

               Orientation week(s) training should include but are not limited to:

Good Manufacturing Practices

Chemical Safety Training

Introduction to Food Safety (HARPC and SQF)

HTST System Operation Class

Walk-thru of a facility or, if able, many facilities depending on the size of company. For a dairy company, these may include a fluid dairy facility, ice cream facility, cultured product facility or extended shelf life facility.

Short Overview of the PMO (Pasteurized Milk Ordinance)


Timeline of Training Program:

Below is a rough timeline. Each individual situation will need a timeline tailored to it. The sections may overlap or cross over, as some areas of training may not be available simultaneously or in order listed in this program. For example, there may not be a 3rd party audit happening during the time period the trainee is being trained on Food Safety and Inspections, that piece may have to be revisited during another time in the training program. If the trainee feels they need more training or exposure to a certain subject, more time should be allotted to that subject.

Orientations Weeks – 2 Weeks

Basic Laboratory Procedures – 2 Weeks to a Month

Sanitation – 1 Month or more

Food Safety and Inspections – 1 Month or more

Operations and Dairy Business – Approximately 2 Months, with this section the trainee should spend about a week on each job to truly understand the function and purpose of that job to the business and company as a whole

Program Sections: 

SECTION 1 - Basic Laboratory Procedures

SECTION 2 - Sanitation

SECTION 3 - Food Safety and Inspections

SECTION 4 - Operations and Dairy Business


SECTION 1 – Basic Laboratory Procedures 

In this section, the trainee will be introduced to several basic laboratory procedures that are used daily in the dairy facility. These procedures are imperative to the operation, as they ensure the safety and quality of the products produced and help to identify any potential issues internally, before they may become a more wide spread issue. The trainee will work with the Corporate Lab Director and well as experienced lab technicians during this time. They will shadow the lab director and technicians to learn the procedures, followed by performing the procedures themselves.

Procedures covered in this section of the training program should include, but are not limited to:

                              Raw Milk and Ingredient Testing

  • Fresh Standard Plate Count (SPC), Pre-incubated
  • Direct Microscopic Count
  • Titratable Acidity
  • Added Water
  • Drug Residue Testing on Incoming Raw Milk (Appendix N)

                              Finished Product Testing

  • Fresh and 7-day standard plate count (SPC) and Coliform tests
  • Yeast and Mold tests

Organoleptic/ Sensory Analysis

  • Sight, smell and taste of various products and samples of common defects

Keeping Quality Analyzation

  • Follow finished products through shelf life in 45 degree cooler, analyzing organoleptically each day

Butterfat and Solids Testing

  • Testing of products on Foss (or similar equipment)
  • Babcock method if available and applicable
  • CEM or Brix Refractometer testing methods


  • Thermometers, Scales, Lab equipment

Weights and Measures/Flasking

  • Evaluate weight control programs


SECTION 2 - Sanitation

In this section, the trainee will be learning several aspects of cleaning and sanitation programs that ultimately keep the products produced in the facility safe and of good quality. A strong sanitation program is essential to the success of a dairy plant. With adequate sanitation practices the facility can avoid many issues, including shelf life issues, product recalls and product withdraws. This section of the training is a great time to have the trainee work very closely with CIP operators, employees manually cleaning equipment, lab or supervisor for sanitation verification and if at all possible the chemical provider rep for a facility, as they are as involved and knowledgeable about the cleaning and sanitation of the plant as the employees and often have additional elements of the program to train on.

Items covered in this section of the training program should include, but are not limited to:

                                     CIP Operations

  • Shadow CIP Operator as well as Chemical Rep to learn the process of CIP and how to monitor and verify that all parameters are being met

                                     COP Cleaning of certain Equipment

  • Learn the importance of the functionality of COP tanks

                                     Manual Cleaning of Equipment

  • If applicable, observe manual cleaning of equipment against SSOP to learn importance of cleaning _______________

                                     Product Contact Swabbing (ATP)

  • Science behind ATP swabbing and what a Pass or Fail result is telling you
  • How to physically perform the swab on equipment

                                     Environmental Swabbing

  • Learn about pathogens prevalent in the industry, where/how they thrive, where to look for them, how to get rid of the, etc.
  •  How to physically perform swabbing

                                     Chemical Titration Testing

  • Receive on-the-floor training from Chemical Rep that would be provided to sanitation employees

                                     Training with Chemical Service Providers

  • Shadow Chemical Rep to learn what they do on a routine visit, troubleshooting issues, verifying CIPs, etc.

                                     Master Sanitation Schedule

  • Review Master Sanitation Schedule and Policies to understand impact of following frequencies

                                     Inspection of Equipment Post Cleaning and Sanitation

  • A very critical portion of our cleaning and sanitation programs are the visual inspection of the equipment post cleaning and sanitizing to verify the cleaning was sufficient, regardless of parameters and concentrations met.

                                                            Key Equipment Inspection Competence:


                                                            Lines/Valve clusters

                                                            Packaging Equipment


SECTION 3 - Food Safety and Inspections

In this section, the trainee will learn the ins and outs of food safety and all of the regulations and codes followed throughout the industry that are the framework for almost all of the programs and policies that are in place at most facilities. If timing allows, the trainee should attend training classes on various regulations and codes such as; PCQI Training, SQF Training and Certification, etc. Upon being trained on the textbook portion of these regulations and codes, the trainee will then be introduced to the inspecting and auditing against them also. They should be subjected to a handful of internal and 3rd party audits during this section, if possible.

Regulations, Codes, Trainings and Programs to be covered in this section should include, but are not limited to:                          

HACCP (Food Safety) Training Class and Certification

SQF (Safe Quality Foods) Training Class and certification

Company Internal Audit Program

Company Internal Audit Shadowing

SQF Audit Shadowing

Understanding the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance

Allergen Product Handling

Pasteurization Theory and Operation



SECTION 4 – Operations and Dairy Business 

In this section, the trainee will learn several areas on the business and receive operations related training. If the trainee is directly out of college or has no previous dairy or food plant experience, it is recommended to have them spend time at a plant (week or two) shadowing day to day operations and then performing key jobs within the plant. This will help them to understand the process from start to finish. Amount of days spent on each position will depend on the complexity of that job. Examples, but not limited to: Raw Milk Receiving, HTST Operator, Filler Operator, Cooler, Sales personnel.

Items covered in this section include, but are not limited to:


  • Basic Safety Training
  • Learn about DART Ratings

Day to day operations for Fluid Milk, Cultured Dairy Products, Ice Cream and Juice Products

  • Raw Milk and Ingredients Receiving
    1. Raw Milk Receiving Procedures
    2. Ingredient ordering/rotation/inventory
  • Processing
    1. Work with HTST Operator
  • Packaging/Filling
    1. Work with filler operators
  • Refrigerated Warehouse
    1. Catching/Stocking
    2. Inventory Management
    3. Product Rotation
    4. Picking Orders/Load Out
    5. Load-out Scheduling
  • Basics of equipment operation/maintenance
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Sales Functions
    1. Ride Along with a Sales person

Understanding the Dairy Business

  • On farm visits with field staff
  • Milk Procurement
  • Production Planning
  • Production Ordering
  • Employee Scheduling
  • Product Formulations and the Production Process (Fluid, Ice Cream Cultured and Juice Products)
  • Calculating Formulation Adjustments
  • Milk Accountability
  • Milk Market Report Calculation
  • Route Delivery
  • Route Accountability