Booming Greek Yogurt Industry Has A Dark Side—Acid Whey

It's as acidic as orange juice and deadly to fish.

A disturbing report by Modern Farmer has uncovered a nasty side effect to America's growing obsession with greek yogurt: one of the byproducts of the white stuff is a substance called acid whey, and it's toxic to the environment.

Dump acid whey in a stream or river and it robs the waterway of oxygen, killing fish. There are methods for disposing of it, but the sheer volume of the stuff means disposing of it is hard work. And increasing demand for greek yogurt means there's even more of the acid whey to come.

Yogurt firm Chobani, one of our Most Innovative Companies in 2012, disposes 16,000 gallons of acid whey each day.

UPDATE: Chobani reached out to Fast Company with a statement about acid whey:

"At Chobani, we are committed to being a good community partner. That includes finding responsible uses for whey, a natural byproduct of the process to create authentic strained Greek Yogurt. We are constantly exploring the best ideas and options for beneficial whey use.

Right now, we choose to return whey to farmers, most of whom use it as a supplement to their livestock feed. Some is used as a land-applied fertilizer but only at farms that have nutrient management plans in place with the state environmental conservation agency. A small percentage is also sent to community digesters, where the whey is used to produce energy."

Add New Comment


  • Kasrjs

    This is a ridiculous story that should never have been picked up by Addy.  If you dump any food product into a stream it would kill fish.  But the reality is that yogurt makers do not dump whey into streams, they give it back to farmers.  It is a great way to help farmers recycle a product that is really very benign.  Remember, in conventional yogurt, the whey is just eaten.  Consumers of Dannon,  Yoplait, Bryers and other conventional yogurt eat acid when they eat yogurt and they think it tastes great!

  • Misinformation

    misinformation: ...called acid whey, and it's toxic to the environment...
    misinformation: Dump acid whey in a stream or river and it robs the waterway of oxygen, killing fish.

  • Walter Jeffries

    This is not a problem at all. It is a good resource. We feed thousands of gallons a day of whey to our pastured pigs. I make a great deal of yogurt which is also good for them. The pasture and whey are most of their diet - we don't buy or feed commercial hog feeds / grain. The amino acids in the whey balances the pasture. The acidity of the whey is good for the pigs digestion, helps the pigs digest hay/grasses and makes their gut inhospitable to disease as well as improving the flora in their digestion, just like it does with humans. That's why we eat yogurt too.Whey is not a problem, it is a solution.Cheers,-Walter JeffriesSugar Mountain FarmPastured Pigs, Sheep & Kidsin the mountains of Vermont