Many know that Greek yogurt is a superfood, higher in calcium than other dairy products, which helps build strong bones and prevents osteoporosis, and containing a number of other nutrients including high levels of protein and potassium. In addition, research indicates eating foods high in calcium and protein promotes weight loss. Specifically, whey is valued for being highly nutritional for athletes, babies and the elderly.
So what’s not to love?
According to Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side, the Greek yogurt industry is producing millions of pounds of waste each year that industry insiders are scrambling to figure out what to do with.
For every four ounces of milk, companies only produce one ounce of Greek yogurt – the rest is acid whey, a thin, runny waste product that can’t be dumped. Roughly as acidic as orange juice, acid whey composition robs oxygen from rivers and streams, potentially destroying aquatic life over large areas. The industry recycles it by:
- Supplementing Cow Feed
- Enhancing Farm Fertilizer
- Converting Biogas into Electricity
But what the industry needs is a way to re-purpose
acid whey while also making a profit. Current endeavors include:
- David Barbano’s research to extract the protein in acid whey to create infant formula
- The Center for Diary Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison is attempting to isolate edible-grade lactose out of acid whey – a valuable ingredient in icing and as a browning agent in bread
- Neil Rejman is able to convert the lactose from acid whey into methane to generate electricity
Given the success of Greek yogurt production – tripling between 2007 and 2013, re-purposing acid whey, while making a profit, is a one of considerable wheyt.