Cornell researcher throws cold water on acid whey fears
We reported last month on Modern Farmer's article decrying "the dark side of Greek yogurt" – millions of gallons of acid whey that are removed from the product to make it extra-thick. The New York Post called it the dairy industry's "waste disposal nightmare". USA Today called it the industry's "dirty little secret".
(The issue may also have generated the most puns in American journalistic history.)
Cornell University professor Andrew Novacovic is calling the concerns "astonishingly hyperbolic":
The whey that comes from yogurt production, as well as cheese and cottage cheese production is, literally, acidic, but that shouldn't bring to mind images of battery acid or industrial corrosives. The acidity of acid whey is comparable to that of a banana or tomato juice. In fact, acid whey measures from a 4.4 to 4.8 on the pH scale (the most common measure of acidity), while maple syrup comes in at 4.6.
Currently, whey from strained yogurt production is primarily used for animal feed on nearby dairy farms because this is the most cost effective at present. However, researchers are working on finding other uses for it, including possibly being used as a base for infant formula. Yogurt whey is an unusually rich source of a protein that is characteristic of mother's milk.
Novacovic published a report called "Acidity is not a Synonym for Toxicity". You can read it here. Of course, it doesn't seem like millions of gallons of tomato juice sloshing around is very good for the environment, either.
Chobani and Fage has been actively responding to the criticism, and vowing to dispose of the whey "responsibly", although they're pretty short on what that actually means. But until they figure out a way to reuse or dispose of all that acid whey, it remains an issue for the industry to deal with.
Tags: environment, greek yogurt, yogurt