Booming Greek Yogurt Industry Has A Dark Side–Acid Whey

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.”