St. Albert co-op celebrates 125 years of squeaky cheese

An eastern Ontario cheese factory famous for its squeaky curds is marking a major milestone with a year-long celebration.

Thousands flock to eastern Ontario factory each year to visit home of those famous curds

A package of St-Albert's cheese curds surrounded by plates of poutine. (Courtesy St. Albert Cheese Factory Co-Op)

An eastern Ontario cheese factory famous for its squeaky curds is marking a major milestone with a year-long celebration.

The St. Albert Cheese Factory Co-Op turned 125 Tuesday, and claims that makes it the oldest francophone co-op in Canada — and one of the country's oldest, period.

The co-op opened in 1894 and its products are now sold in over 2,000 locations across Ontario and Quebec.

Its headquarters welcome thousands of visitors every year.

The co-op was forced to rebuild after a devastating fire in February 2013 that left the community, about 50 kilometres southeast of downtown Ottawa, scrambling to recover.

Fire destroyed of the St. Albert cheese factory in February 2013, but the co-op soon rose from the ashes. (Jean-Sebastien Marier/Radio-Canada)

The factory was rebuilt from the ground up and reopened in 2014, just in time for the co-op's 120th anniversary. 

Specializing in artisanal cheddar, the co-op has won numerous awards for its products in Canada and internationally.

Locally, it's perhaps best known for those bags of squeaky white curds that are an essential ingredient of poutine.

The co-op is planning to celebrate throughout 2019, including another edition of its annual Curd Festival.

The event, which began in 1994, attracts more than 50,000 people over five days each summer.