Greek Yogurt: The Healthy Toxic Waste Hazard

  • Michael Briggs , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • May, 26, 2013, 06:08 PM


(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)



Greek yogurt is lauded for its health benefits, but the increasingly popular food item is also reportedly highly dangerous for the environment.

For each ounce of the yogurt, three to four ounces of milk is needed. The remaining substance is called 'acid whey,' which contains about the same acidity as orange juice and can't be dumped because it could enter waterways and destroy aquatic life. The problem the $2 billion Greek yogurt industry is left with is exactly what to do with the acid whey. 

While solutions to feed the substance to cows (which one farmer called, "like feeding your cows candy bars - they like it but can't eat too much of it,") and use it in a new infant formula have the ball rolling, the industry is still searching for a more permanent solution.

The recent report in Modern Farmer that detailed the environmental issue involving Greek yogurt further explained how difficult another solution, converting the acid whey into electricity, would be:

"When the whey arrives from Chobani, some of it is mixed with the vast quantity of manure the farm produces daily. From the manure pit, the light brown soup (basically a river of shit) flows into a 16-foot-deep underground concrete tank known as an anaerobic digester. An innocent looking expanse of cement in a big, green field dotted with dandelions, there's a lot going on inside, where a fetid mix of manure and whey percolate.

The material is heated up and kept in the tank for about 20 days, during which time bacteria break up the organic material-the lactose, in the case of whey-and release gases, including methane. The gas is fed into generators that produce electricity to power the farm and to sell to the local utility for use elsewhere."

According to Packaged Facts, Greek yogurt made up 35% of all yogurt sales in 2012, rising from just 1% in 2007.

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