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Greek yogurt waste 'acid whey' a concern for USDA: Jones Laffin

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By Mark Astley+

30-Jan-2014

Acid whey is a byproduct in the manufacture of Greek yogurt products including Chobani and Dannon Oikos. (Image: Chobani)
Acid whey is a byproduct in the manufacture of Greek yogurt products including Chobani and Dannon Oikos. (Image: Chobani)

Greek yogurt byproduct acid whey has become a significant concern for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), says a company tasked by the agency to complete the development of technology to alleviate the issue.

In early 2012, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) established a cooperative research agreement with food industry innovation firm Jones Laffin to patent an “effective system for the economical and effective processing of acid whey.”

North Carolina-based Jones Laffin partnered with ARS to complete the agency development, which involves the extraction of whey protein and lactose from acid whey - a natural by-product of Greek yogurt, cream cheese, and cottage cheese production that is difficult to dispose of and can pollute waterways.

“The new process is an all-natural method of separating the component ingredients of raw acid whey – water, lactose, and protein – and turning them into valuable commodities which can be sold as ingredients in the food industry,” Joe Laffin, president of Jones Laffin, told DairyReporter.com.

The technology will “offer the dairy industry as opportunity to turn a disposal expense into a new revenue enhancement,” he said.

“The result is a new source of valuable, usable protein rather than an economic and environmental risk.”

“Problem of volume”

Greek yogurt is undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories in the food and beverage industry over the last few years. In 2007, Greek yogurt accounted for just 1% of total US yogurt sales. Now the product accounts for more than a third of all yogurts sold across America.

On the back of this growth, however, acid whey has become greater concern for the USDA, said Laffin.

“Acid whey is a really a problem of volume,” he said. “While it can be used in animal feed, its use must be limited. A chief danger is that, if it gets into waterways, it can result in massive fish kills and creation of a ‘dead sea’ effect by depleting oxygen.”

“Although these challenges could be met when the Greek yogurt industry was much smaller, they are now industrial level issues.”

“Since the disposal of acid whey has so threatened the growing Greek yogurt industry, we’re confident the technology will be critical to yogurt manufacturers, and the benefits will have a positive ripple effect not only on our national economy but also our national health,” said Laffin.

The company plans to introduce the technology, which will be suitable for “widespread commercial use”, in the second quarter of 2014.

Texturized whey protein

Through its partnership with the USDA’s ARS, Jones Laffin also boasts an exclusive license within the US and several European countries to develop texturized whey protein (TWP), which is the product of a process that converts whey protein into “a more functional ingredient.”

“Food manufacturers may utilize regular whey protein up to certain levels due to the very nature of protein as an ingredient,” said Laffin.

“TWP addresses those concerns by working in recipes and formulas at significantly higher percentages that traditional whey protein – doing so without altering the flavor, texture or other natural characteristics in products such as cereal, pasta, soups and beverages.”

The combination of the two processes being developed in partnership with the USDA should lead to the an increase in the production of “environmentally conscious, healthier commodities to address consumers’ growing needs and demands for products containing more protein,” Laffin added.

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1 comment

Acid Whey: an asset, not a liability

It is interesting to see that the USDA has knighted one person to come up with THE solution to the utilization of acid whey. His novel solution? Do the same thing with acid whey as is being done with sweet whey. How much did that cost taxpayers?

The problem with his solution is that acid whey contains much less protein and much less lactose than sweet whey. Therefore, the yields of both products will be much less. Furthermore, his by-products (delactosed permeate or delactosed whey) will still contain about half of the acid whey solids. Good press; bad economics.

Forty years ago, when I called sweet whey an asset of the cheese factory; people laughed at me. They don't laugh at me anymore. Cheese factories now consider sweet whey an extremely valuable asset. The change in fact came about because of a change in attitude.

I know of at least one company that considers acid whey an asset and is in the process of contracting with Greek yogurt manufactures to process their acid whey.

If milk were dumped into a river, the milk would cause exactly the same depletion of oxygen as acid whey. It's time for this "toxic" by-product myth to stop.

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Posted by Kent Keller
31 January 2014 | 23h47

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