WASHINGTON — The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) named Ed Mullins, senior executive officer of Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., and Dan Zagzebski, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes Cheese, winners of the 2022 IDFA Laureate Award.

This is the third year the IDFA has presented the award, which is given to leaders in the dairy industry for their notable and continuing contributions.

The IDFA honored Mullins and Zagzebski during the association’s annual Dairy Forum. Each year, the awardees are chosen by a panel of industry professionals.

Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and chief executive officer of IDFA, called Mullins someone who has defined the industry for several generations, and is respected by colleagues and peers.

“He has a deep faith and commitment to his family,” Dykes added. “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.”

Mullins said he was humbled and honored to receive the award.

“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,” he said.

Under Zagzebski’s leadership, meanwhile, Dykes said that Great Lakes Cheese has seen smart growth, commitment to innovation and a mindset to giving back to employees and communities.

“He is an exemplary leader who has made a lasting impact not only for Great Lakes Cheese, but for the dairy industry more broadly,” Dykes said. “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."

Zagzebski, too, described himself as honored and humbled to accept the award.

“I share this award with my Great Lakes Cheese family and our owners, the Epprecht Family,” Zagzebski said. “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.”

Mullins’ lengthy time at Prairie Farms began in 1980, and he became the Illinois-based cooperative’s CEO and executive vice president before taking on his current duties, as SEO. Mullins sits on several industry-related boards, including IDFA, IICA, MilkPEP, Milk Industry Foundation and Missouri Grocers Association. In 2018, he was inducted into the Missouri Grocers Association Hall of Fame. In 2014, Mullins received the IDFA Soaring Eagle Award for extraordinary leadership in the dairy industry.

Zagzebski started working at Great Lakes Cheese 15 years ago, and became the president and CEO in 2015. Zagzebski joined the company when Great Lakes Cheese purchased Lemke Cheese and Packaging in Wausau, Wisconsin, where he was co-owner and CEO. During Zagzebski’s time with Great Lakes Cheese, the company has been a leader in cheese packaging and manufacturing in the US.

Past winners 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).