Waste From Greek Yogurt Can Be Toxic

The manufacturing process creates a nasty by-product called sour whey that can kill fish when dumped in the water

  • Share
  • Read Later
Greek yogurt with honey
Getty Images

Greek yogurt — the thicker and more protein-packed version of yogurt — has been everywhere lately: Greek yogurt for men, Ben & Jerry’s new frozen variety, even New York City pop-up shops. The “crack yogurt” has ignited such a feeding frenzy that in the past five years yogurt plants in New York state have nearly tripled, growing by more than 1 billion lb., according to the New York governor’s office.

But here’s a new dollop of truth that might sour your taste buds: when Greek yogurt gets strained, it leaves a waste product called acid (sour) whey, a liquid substance consisting of water, lactose (sugar), protein and yogurt cultures. Modern Farmer reports that whey acid is so environmentally toxic that it is illegal to dump it: once it gets into the waterways, it consumes so much oxygen that aquatic life significantly die off.

(MORE: Has Greek Yogurt Jumped the Shark?)

According to Modern Farmer, there are no industry-wide statistics on where the whey is being disposed. Yogurt manufacturers usually pay nearby farmers to haul it away. The farmers then repurpose the sour whey by blending it into feed or fertilizer. But in an already resource-tight industry — it takes 3 to 4 oz. of milk to make 1 oz. of Greek yogurt — researchers are looking beyond the local level. Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell University, tells Modern Farmer that there might be a way to capitalize on the protein in the sour whey by using it in infant formula. This is similar to what cheesemakers are doing: manufactured cheese’s by-product, sweet whey, which has more protein and less acid than sour whey, is now widely incorporated into body-building supplements and used as an ingredient to replace sugar in baked goods.

(MORE: This Exists: Greek Yogurt for Men)

Some are also redirecting the caloric energy into kinetic: farmers in New York state are turning lactose, the sugar in the acid whey, into methane, which can then generate electricity for their farms. Unfortunately, these generators are so expensive up front that many are holding out for a quick fix on this toxic asset. At New York state’s Yogurt Summit last year, one producer quoted in Modern Farmer said: “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become a hero.”

MORE: Greek-Yogurt Haters, Unite! We Have Nothing to Lose but Some Bacteria

13 comments
person2000
person2000 like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is the most ridiculous and poorly researched article ever.  There is nothing particularly toxic about whey, dumping any food product causes bacteria to grow which uses up all of the oxygen.  Dumping milk or vegetable oil into waterways is also forbidden for the same reason.

The folks in Italy figured this out a long time ago (the whey from Parmesan cheese is fed to the hogs that make Prosciutto di Parma), and this is a usual fate for whey everywhere in the world....the only issue here is that there is a lot of new whey supply and not quite enough demand to use it up yet.

"Toxic"? Give me a break. 

thunder_121
thunder_121

It's often said....


Where there is a will.........(ready for this?).......There is a Whey !!!!!

tigit2011
tigit2011

Maybe someone can call up Greece and ask them what they do there with all their acid whey. At my house, I use it for making bread.

antistrofos
antistrofos

This is pattently ridiculous! Any Greek who has made yoghurt at home can tell you that what remains after straining the yoghurt can be used to make very refreshing drinks. It is certainly not toxic!

thunder_121
thunder_121

Maybe sell Greek Yogurt Whey to the Oil Companies as a Fracking Injection Additive - harhar!

JustRon
JustRon like.author.displayName 1 Like

So they can't just throw it awhey?

dcgirl
dcgirl

Maybe they can use the lactic acid-rich whey to reduce acrylamide in potato chips! (large-scale production) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100909074011.htm I personally just drink the whey by-product from my homemade yogurt. Some people use whey to ferment everything from veggies to mayonnaise. Somehow I think that whey is going to be very useful, if we can only figure out how to scale its uses and how to discard it properly.

pkeyrich
pkeyrich

Look to France for answers.

MorganWright
MorganWright

It's lactic acid NOT lactose. This is acid whey. Lactic acid. There is no lactose anymore, the bacteria turned that into lactic acid. And it doesn't take 3 oz of milk to make 1 ounce of yoghurt. I make yoghurt myself. I get 3 oz of yog from 3 oz milk. The milk turns into yoghurt. This article is bogus.

mikanjuice
mikanjuice

and then it is strained to make Greek yogurt so much of the whey is drained.  probably that's why the yield is less than the milk used.

AndyFalcon
AndyFalcon

I do declare! When I fart after eating greek yogurt, the flies within a six foot radius die off an' I become a five alarm fire hazard for a couple of minutes.