Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. What distinguishes Greek yogurt is its thicker, creamier texture. Greek yogurt also contains probiotic cultures, is lower in lactose (sugar) – for those who have a slight intolerance – and has twice the protein content of regular yogurts. There are low-fat, flavored, and enhanced varieties available on the market.
The density and sourness of this type of yogurt yields itself well to recipes as a healthier alternative to mayonnaise or sour cream and as an additive in both sweet and savory meals. In order to produce Greek yogurt’s unique texture, the liquid whey is strained out – an opaquely white, runny, sour, acidic by-product made up of water, lactose (sugar), protein, and cultures.
Unfortunately, as healthy as the yogurt is for us, the watery by-product is toxic to the environment and illegal to dump. Acid whey robs water of essential oxygen content, thus polluting the waterways by smothering out aquatic life, according to the Modern Farmer.
Cheese whey has been found to produce the same devastating results, killing thousands of fish after being inadvertently released into a creek.
According to a Fox News report, for every three to four ounces of milk used, Greek yogurt manufacturers can only make one ounce of thick Greek yogurt, the rest becoming acid whey – claiming 70 percent of the by-product is sold off to neighboring farmers as livestock feed.
The New York Post reports that in 2011, New York state alone produced nearly 66 million gallons of toxic acid whey. The Northeast region of the country generated more than 150 million gallons in 2012 – reflecting the growing popularity of this style of yogurt.
Whey disposal as livestock feed is flawed though as cows can only ingest so much before developing gastrointestinal problems or digestive upset. Additional options such as augmenting the acidic by-product into baby formula or supplements has been explored but not successfully executed.
Still, an inexpensive, reliable manner of disposal has become essential to yogurt manufacturers if they wish to continue making their delicious, creamy product – which has become a $2 billion business.
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