I read an interesting news story this past week, about Greek yoghurt and its’ potentially hazardous by-product, acid whey. I thought I’d share the main points here with you.
Greek yoghurt is different from normal yoghurt because it is strained and more acid whey is released from the product. This process makes a thicker and creamier yoghurt, but also requires much more milk to produce the same amount of yoghurt (instead of a 1:1 ratio, it is a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of milk to yoghurt).
The growing popularity of Greek yoghurt (now a 2 billion USD market) over the past few years has meant that there is a significantly larger amount of acid whey being produced. Acid whey is similar in acidity to orange juice, and right now, there are not a lot of uses for it. This is unfortunate, because the acidity means that it cannot simply be dumped (there are laws against it), as the high acidity would mean that as it decomposed, it would use too much oxygen in the waterways and would cause significant die-off of marine organisms.
Currently, there are a few solutions, but they do not seem to be able to serve the supply of acid whey, and yoghurt companies are looking into alternative and more cost-effective ways of utilizing the whey. Some of these solutions include mixing the acid whey into animal feed (though it is essentially a junk food for them), or mixing it into manure and through anaerobic digestion, convert it into biogas and electricity. Proposed solutions include separating the protein from the whey to use in infant formulas, or separating the lactose and using it in food products.
If you’d like to read more about this issue, visit Modern Farmer here.
There are some people who make their own Greek yoghurt that have found ways to use acid whey – in baking, pickling, and other home remedies (see here, here, here, and here). I am glad that there is a way for people to make use of this by-product, though it probably is not to able to scale to the size that the Greek yoghurt companies would require.
I found it so intriguing that a health food that has been touted by media and that I have noticed growing in popularity, has such an unfortunate side to it. What do you think of this? Do you eat Greek yoghurt?
P.S. Rain barrels are still for sale at http://rainbarrel.ca/INDEVOURS/! We'll be selling them at the Kitchener Market on June 22nd, so order yours now and I'll see you there!
3/6/2013 01:52:06 am
Oh man, I love greek yoghurt, but never knew this information about it! Thanks for passing along this info. It got me thinking of how, not just with this, but with so many of our actions, we often have no idea of what the repercussions are. Of our actions, inactions, purchases, etc. But I think it's also important to remember where the source of our information is. And that also makes figuring out if our actions are helpful or harmful more difficult. Because there are probably many people that agree with what Modern Farmer says about the negative impacts of Greek yoghurt production, but I'm sure there are others who completely disagree. So then who do you believe??
It sparked something similar for me, Bailey. In regard to your comment about the varying views, I think that it is generally agreed that this by-product is hazardous, and that there must be a way to utilize it in some other process. But in other situations, I definitely agree about the conflict and struggle to find a side to choose.
3/6/2013 09:50:31 am
I understand that Greek yoghurt is much higher in protein, hence its growing popularity. I had no idea that the whey would present such a problem for disposal. (Being lactose intolerant, I don't eat yoghurt anyway.) Were you looking into it as a possible source of nutrition in third world countries?
Hi Sylvia! I was not actually looking into Greek yoghurt for my international development work, but was interested in the story more from the environmental impact side, which is also an important part of today's development work. As a side note, in a lot of developing nations, people do not culturally eat a lot of cow's milk, so it would most likely be a little odd to use yoghurt (at least, the stuff made of cow's milk) as a source of nutrition.
10/6/2013 10:08:08 pm
In response to this comment, have you ever heard of the work done by a University of Western Ontario researcher about using probiotic yoghurt to help fight diseases in developing countries? Here is an article about it: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056109/. And here is more about UWO's project: http://www.westernheadseast.ca/about_us.cfm. Something you might find interesting!
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Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.