Greek Yogurt and its Wasteful Whey Secret
Greek yogurt is revolutionizing the dairy industry with it’s thick creamy texture and high protein, but it also comes at a price. Whey waste.
Due to the unexpected popularity and increase in production, a glut of whey is being produced with no process of disposal or recycling. True traditional style Greek yogurt is made by straining the liquid out until it reaches that nearly cheesecake density, 75% of it’s total weight is removed as whey. Some companies have tried to get around this by adding thickeners to achieve a similar texture.
Unfortunately this liquid whey isn’t as valuable as whey created from the straining of cheese, so disposal can be tricky. Sour (acidic) whey has very few ‘profitable’ uses, so yogurt companies are paying to have it trucked off to anyone who will accept it. Dumping it is illegal due to it’s environmental toxicity, it would rob waterways of oxygen, killing fish and aquatic life due to the large clogging algal blooms.
Some farmers are getting paid to accept it as a feed additive, while others are mixing it with manure in anaerobic digesters to create biogas. The lactose sugars in the whey are converted to methane, which can be burned off to create energy. The amount of whey waste produced by these factories exceeds capacity for digesters in their area, and due to the huge initial expense to build these anaerobic digesters and associated biogas generators, other solutions are still being explored.