Cougar Cheese

It is a unique product with a history that is just as interesting. Whether you’ve been snacking on our product for years or have just been introduced to it, you should be interested in its origins here at Washington State University.

Photo of the Milk House
Charles Marshall (left) takes a break outside of Troy Hall with a co-worker

Photo of Troy Hall in 1924
Troy Hall circa 1924
Photo of milk carts being pulled by pigs
Milk cart being pulled by pigs

The Early Days

In 1902, the Dairy Manufacturing Plant burned down and a replacement brick building was constructed west of College Hall. This new building housed the Creamery, two laboratories, two classrooms, and a few offices for faculty. Construction of Troy Hall began in 1918, but was stopped due to lack of funding.

The state legislature voted to fund the completion of Troy Hall in 1921 while the Dairy Department conducted its business in a rented building in downtown Pullman. In 1923, they moved back to campus and set up shop in Wilson Hall. In 1926, construction of Troy Hall was completed and occupied by the Dairy Department and the Milk House, a private dairy company leasing the space from the university.


In the late 1930s, the Creamery became interested in different ways to store cheese. Cans seemed to be the best option because plastic was not yet invented and wax cracked (enabling contamination). In the 1940s, the U.S. government and American Can Company funded WSU’s research to find a way to successfully keep the cheese in tins. One of the cheeses resulting from the research was so wonderful that it was dubbed “Cougar Gold®” after Dr. N. S. Golding, one of the men involved in the research. Canned Cougar Gold® has been in production ever since.


In the 1940s, WSU ceased working with contractors to make cheese. In beginning their own operations, Ferdinand’s was born. To this day, Ferdinand’s is the ever-popular ice cream shoppe on campus that sells delicious dairy products to Pullman residents, WSU students, and visitors.

Ferdinand's in 1940
Dr. Golding with cans of cheese
A photo of a cheese vat.
Photo of two people slicing up cheese.

1950 – 1970s

Research and teaching continued at the Creamery throughout this period of time. Milk and ice cream products were made to feed hungry WSU students in the dining halls. When the students left during the summer months, the Creamery began to produce cheese so as to not waste the milk.

Late 1970s

In the late 1970s, WSU dining halls started buying their fluid milk from a commercial dairy at a lower cost, and the Creamery began to produce cheese year round. The revenue from its cheese and ice cream sales was, and is, able to fully support the Creamery as well as important research conducted at the university.

A photo of the milk truck

1980 – 1992

Production and sales continued to increase and the vision of a new production facility began to form. Production was maxed out in the Troy Hall facility and industry standards had changed. From every can of cheese sold, $1.00 was put into a building fund for a number of years to bring that vision into reality.

Photo of inside of Ferdinand's
Cougar Cheese is a treat enjoyed around the globe and will continue to withstand the test of time. Stop by for a visit when you are in town.

1992 – Present

In May 1992, the Creamery moved from its old home in Troy Hall to a fantastic and modern new location in the Food Quality Building. This new facility allows the Creamery to be at the forefront of research in cheese production. It allows WSU students to gain work experience directly applicable to the work they may do in the food science field after graduating.

The Creamery currently produces 250,000 cans of cheese each year, 80% of which is Cougar Gold®. The cheeses are sold at Ferdinand’s, through the Creamery’s Direct Marketing Department for shipment, at local Pullman retailers, WSU bookstores throughout Washington, and other selected retail locations. Yes, Cougar Cheese is adored worldwide! Moreover, 22,000 gallons of ice cream (20 flavors in all!) are produced and sold annually at Ferdinand’s and other locations on the WSU campus.

Purchasing cheese from the WSU Creamery helps support student employees of Washington State University by providing competitive wages and valuable work experiences. A portion of the revenue from the sale of WSU Creamery products is used for educational support of Food Science students.