Greek yogurt’s hidden dark side

gillean
Shine OnMarch 7, 2014
greek yogurt
tk

Coveted for its extra-creamy texture and high protein content, Greek yogurt is certainly having its moment in food trend history.

But, it turns out the $2-billion Greek yogurt industry is all coming at a great cost to our environment -- and is quickly becoming one of the biggest problems in food production industry.

The making of Greek yogurt involves whirling fermented milk (also known as regular yogurt) in a centrifugal machine to separate the excess liquid whey from the milk solids. This process concentrates the product, giving it that signature creamy texture and desirable protein content.

Also see: Is this the 'food of the future?'

But that liquid whey is highly acidic – even more so than orange juice – and yogurt manufacturers such as Chobani and Danone are having a heck of a time figuring out what to do with it all. If dumped, the liquid runs the risk of getting into streams and waterways. Given whey's acidity, this could quite literally kill off entire fish populations (and has in the past).

The problem of the acidic byproduct is exasperated by its sheer volume. Up to four ounces of milk is needed to make just one ounce of Greek yogurt, and all of that remaining liquid is what manufacturers are struggling to deal with.

There have been some strides in addressing the mass output of liquid whey. As reported in Salon, Chobani and many other manufacturers currently pay farmers to take the whey off their hands, which is then turned into animal feed or fertilizer.

Also see: Enjoy bananas while you still can

This practice has long been employed by cheese manufacturers for ridding themselves of the whey output of cheese-making, but it's not overly practical for the mass volume of whey produced by the Greek yogurt industry. Cows can only eat so much whey before it upsets their digestive system, not to mention the horrible smell the whey emits after a day or two of not being used.

Scientists are currently exploring new ways of putting the whey to work – some options include adding it to infant formula and nutritional supplements as a source of protein, while others have found a way of transforming the milk sugars found in whey into electricity.

Here in Canada, the practice of pawning off the whey on farmers seems to be the only route yogurt manufacturers are taking. The Toronto Star reports that the Quebec-based Danone yogurt factory transfers 50,000 tonnes of whey to local farms for animal food.

Also see: Meals you can make in a coffee pot

"At Danone in Canada, since we started making Greek yogurt we have disposed of all the extracted whey in a sensible and responsible way via agricultural recycling in the form of animal feed," Danone's communications manager Anne-Julie Maltais tells Yahoo Canada Shine.

While this is effective for now, the process of transporting all of that whey is costly, and another Danone representative tells the Toronto Star that the company is currently discussing new methods of recycling the byproduct.

Danone could not be reached for further comment on what these new methods might be.

Melt away dirt, oil and makeup!

Try our one-step facial cleanser for the ultimate clean or our cleansing wipes for Purity on the go! Natural oil extracts condition and refresh skin.

Trade U.S. equities online for just $7.95.

Fidelity is lower than TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and E*Trade. Open an account today.

The Best of Both Worlds.

The 2015 Dodge Challenger Classic design meets powerful performance. Meet the Dodge Challenger. Your day just got a lot more interesting.

Delta Reserve Credit Card

Earn Miles and MQMs with Miles Boost™. Learn More. Terms Apply.

Walden University- Doctor of Nursing Practice

Earn your degree online through Walden's CCNE-accredited nursing program and make a difference in your patients' lives. Request free info today!

Discover resort-style living in Warrenton

The Lakes at Brookside offers close-knit hometown living with Lakes, amenities & large yards right next to vibrant Vint Hill. From the $400s