Whey, Whey Too Much Whey…

As promised, this week the discussion turns to all things Greek Yogurt: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  As you may already know, Greek style yogurt tastes different than its conventional counterpart in that it offers a tangier flavor and a thicker consistency in every bite.  This thicker consistency is the result of a process where manufacturers strain the yogurt, which leaves behind a runny substance known as acid whey (Elliott).  This byproduct, which is made up of yogurt cultures, protein, lactose, and water is just about as acidic as bananas, and has become a real threat to our ecosystems.  It is illegal to dump, and if it enters major waterways and interferes with other natural resources, it can eradicate species of animals and plants (Elliott).  However, at the same time, we see a steep rise in the amount of Greek yogurt being sold across the country, which poses a question to Greek yogurt manufacturers: Will this increase in sales (and acid whey) be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare (Elliott)?

I am of the opinion that Greek yogurt manufacturers see this conflict as both an opportunity and a potential catastrophe.  Currently, one of the most popular solutions for manufacturers is to “hire” farmers to take the acid whey away, and carry it back to their farms, where they can then use it in fertilizer and feed.   In addition, manufacturers are interested in not only getting rid of the excess whey, but also making money as they do it.  One idea that they’ve tossed around is extracting the protein from the acid whey, and then using the protein as an ingredient in baby formula.  The reason why this idea has never really come to fruition though is because they’re having a rather difficult time engineering a cost effective approach to extraction.  Another plan, which also resides on the more expensive side, includes converting the lactose in the byproduct into methane.  After this conversion, the methane could be used for energy and electricity (Elliott).

Manufacturers are trying to preserve their companies, while safely grappling with the environmental issues that arise because of their products.  Andrew Novakovic, Cornell University Professor of Agricultural Economics says “Food companies are acutely aware of the requirements that they have not only in a legal sense, but in a business sense.  If they are seen as careless on environmental issues, certainly careless on human health issues, their business is in peril. So this is not something a major company would take lightly in the least.”  Interestingly, the cheese industry faced a similar problem in the past with their own byproducts.  Novakovic speaks to this point as well, commenting “So this is a familiar problem.  It’s one that the industry is well able to deal with and deal with in a responsible manner.”  So there is hope for the future, as more ideas are being test driven and successfully executed.

Has anybody ever made their own Greek yogurt?  It’s something that I definitely want to try, and would be very interested in hearing any expertise or advice from someone who has!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Elliott, Justin. “Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side.” ModernFarmer. Modern Farmer Media. 2013. Web. 2 July 2013. <http://modernfarmer.com/2013/05/whey-too-much-greek-yogurts-dark-side/>

Haupt, Angela and Hiatt, Kurtis. Health.USNews. U.S.News & World Report LP. 2013. Web. 2 July 2013.

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One thought on “Whey, Whey Too Much Whey…

  1. Sam L.

    Another great post Katie!

    Just one question: isn’t whey the same stuff as in cottage cheese (“curds and whey”)? Also, the methane could very likely be easily produced by feeding it to genetically modified bacteria in a bioreactor– a very interesting prospect, and one of the good sides of genetic modification debate…

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