There's an interesting article over at Modern Farmer about "the dark side" of Greek yogurt production: whey -- what's left over from the process of making yogurt. A clip from the article by Justin Elliot:
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. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.
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.
As you know, New York State was the nation's biggest producer of yogurt in 2012, thanks in large part to the Greek yogurt factories in the state (including Chobani). So this is a pressing issue upstate -- especially as companies to continue to expand production. And there doesn't appear to be an easy answer.
Update: Chobani sent along a statement about the situation surrounding whey. It's in full after the jump.
Modern Farmer: Yep, that's the new publication based in Hudson.
From Amy Juaristi, the director of PR for Chobani, via email:
At Chobani, we are committed to being a good community partner. That includes finding responsible uses for whey, a natural byproduct of the process to create authentic strained Greek Yogurt. We are constantly exploring the best ideas and options for beneficial whey use.
Right now, we choose to return whey to farmers, most of whom use it as a supplement to their livestock feed. Some is used as a land-applied fertilizer but only at farms that have nutrient management plans in place with the state environmental conservation agency. A small percentage is also sent to community digesters, where the whey is used to produce energy.
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