Uh oh, bad news healthy eating friends. The newest, trendiest (and in my opinion, the most delicious) yogurt on grocery store shelves could be bad for the environment.
A recent report by Dan Charles on NPR’s All Things Considered found that the authentic method behind making Greek yogurt are very wasteful and produce byproducts that are bad for the environment. Charles found that at the Fage factory in Johnstown, NY takes four pounds of milk to make one pound of yogurt. The other three pounds are strained out of the yogurt as a thin liquid called whey, and getting rid of that whey is quite the burden. Greek yogurt factories have to pay people to take it off their hands. Whey is actually a valued product because it’s a great source of lactose and concentrated protein. Unfortunately, whey from dairy isn’t as profitable because contains fewer solids and is more acidic than other sources.
Fage strategically built their factory in Johnstown so they could pump their whey across the fields to a waste water treatment plant less than a mile away. At the plant the whey is put into a large tank with bacteria that feed off of the sugars. These helpful bacterial make the whey less harmful and convert it into something useful: bio gas, which is mostly methane. That bio gas is burned in two powerful electrical generators supplying most of the power that it takes to run Johnstown’s wastewater treatment plant.
Other Greek yogurt factories such as Chobani have to pay farmers to take their whey. Farmers can make as much as $300 for taking a truckload of whey off the factory’s hands. The farmers use it as fertilizer or add it to cattle feed, but there’s a limit as to how much they can take because they run the risk of running off fields and polluting nearby streams.
Greek yogurt manufacturers are currently trying to find economical ways to dump of their waste. In the meantime, we as consumers could help out by limiting our consumption of Greek yogurt and dairy as a whole. Here are a few alternatives to traditional store-bought Greek yogurt:
- So Delicious Greek yogurt is dairy free and made from coconut milk.
- Banana Soft Serve is a cold treat that only uses one ingredient – a banana! If it’s too sweet for your tastes, add a drop of lemon.
- Or make your own! Lifehacker has an easy tutorial using coffee filters.