Whey overboard

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Photo by tbiley via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

J recently forwarded a link me for an article in the new magazine Modern Farmer. In it, Justin Elliott considers the ever-growing amounts of industrial by-product resulting from America’s latest dairy dear, Greek yogurt. He writes,

For every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey. It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas….

The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting. The $2 billion Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in food over the past few years and total yogurt production in New York nearly tripled between 2007 and 2013. New plants continue to open all over the country. The Northeast alone, led by New York, produced more than 150 million gallons of acid whey last year, according to one estimate.

And as the nation’s hunger grows for strained yogurt, which produces more byproduct than traditional varieties, the issue of its acid runoff becomes more pressing. Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling not just to figure out uses for whey, but how to make a profit off of it.

It’s a good read, with plenty of links, so check out the full story here. For more, have a look at my earlier posts on the subject here and here.

And, if you’ve still got time on your hands and are curious to read a couple interesting pieces on Modern Farmer magazine, check out Rebecca Rothbaum’s post for the Wall Street Journal and Andrea Crawford’s piece for Slate.

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