Greek yogurt is a popular food that has been associated with a lot of health benefits, including being a good source of nutrients, proteins and helping in weight loss. However, as it is becoming more and more popular as a food product, the question now is whether this particular yogurt variety is as healthy as claimed by its proponents.
Is greek yogurt bad for the environment? What is its environmental impact?
Table of Contents
- What is greek yogurt?
- What are the ingredients of greek yogurt?
- What is the process of greek yogurt production?
- Greek yogurt health benefits
- How does greek yogurt affect the environment?
- What is acid whey?
- Separating acid whey components
- Stockpiles of Whey Acid Building Up
- Whey Acid Dumping
- How does acid whey affect the atmosphere?
- Fertilizer for livestock reaching the water
What is greek yogurt?
Greek yogurt is a traditional product from Greece and has a creamy texture that makes it popular as an ingredient or a stand-alone snack. The type of fermentation used for the yogurt is different from the usual processes, which means that there are different health benefits associated with eating greek yogurt compared to other varieties.
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What are the ingredients of greek yogurt?
The primary ingredient of greek yogurt is milk. Other ingredients include water, salt, and a starter bacteria for fermentation called Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Greek Yogurt Nutrition Facts per 100g Serving: Calories – 131 sweet whey protein – 13g Carbohydrate – 5g Sugar – 7.8g Fat – 9.5g Saturated fat – 6.5g Potassium – 169mg.
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What is the process of greek yogurt production?
In order to make greek yogurt, the milk is first heated to a temperature of at least 180F. At this point, the lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus) that has been added will proliferate and produce enzymes that then break down lactose into simpler sugars.
The milk is then cooled down and it is stirred continuously to prevent the formation of large curds. The pH at this point should be about 4.5 which can be further lowered by adding more acid or raising the temperature.
With the help of rennet, the milk clumps are broken so that there will be no large yogurt lumps when they are placed in small containers for fermentation. This is then left for 12 to 18 hours at a temperature of about 110F.
At this time, the yogurt should be produced and can be enjoyed as desired by consumers.
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Greek yogurt health benefits
The way that Greek yogurt has been produced results in the presence of higher levels of protein and probiotics as well as lower levels of sugar and carbohydrate when compared to other types of regular yogurts. Some studies also claim that it is a good source of calcium and other nutrients.
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How does greek yogurt affect the environment?
When considering the environmental impact of greek yogurt, it is important to look at both the process of greek yogurt production and how much it can be consumed in terms of its health benefits.
The most common problem with the production of this type of yogurt has been associated with using excess amounts of water. This may also involve the presence of harmful chemicals like acid whey, which is a byproduct of the process of making cheese.
In 2010, acidic whey has been identified as having significant environmental impacts including contributing to global warming and negatively affecting the earth’s ozone layer because of its presence in the atmosphere. Acid whey can be recycled, but it requires minimal processing.
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What is acid whey?
Acid whey is a yellowish liquid that is produced in the process of making cheese.
This involves adding acid to milk to produce specific enzymes like rennet, which then results in whey decomposition. The resulting solid particles are called curds and these can be used for a variety of food products including Greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, and parmesan cheese.
The remaining liquid is used in baking or can also be processed further in order to make a runny waste product like whey protein powder, livestock feed, and other similar products. Aside from the presence of acid whey in the environment, there are other environmental impacts that can result from making Greek yogurt.
The most obvious one is how much water is needed in order to make it. It may also involve the presence of heavy metals that are used in industrial farming, antibiotics, and high levels of greenhouse gases that are given off because of industrial farm production methods.
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Separating acid whey components
Dean Sommer is one of the world’s leading experts on acid whey. He breaks down acid whey into its various components. You could spray lactic acids onto meat in an attempt to remove germs if you extracted pure lactic acids. Deciding who would be interested in buying and utilizing these parts was the next step.
Protein isolate, a by-product of the cheese industry, underwent a different image transformation and is now utilized in a variety of items from sports drinks to milk to yogurt.
The CDR aims to eliminate this negative connotation, but there is a technological answer for it. After all, technology was developed with the intention of being implemented into food and sports drinks.
The acid whey protein does not have a negative connotation as long as you can find a market for it.
In fact, if these non-food applications could be found for this product, then its worth would increase and the perceived image of this by-product would also change. If we can make money out of household waste disposal: then the collection of acid whey should be encouraged.
Looking at what has been mentioned above, it can be seen that there are many ways to produce Greek yogurt.
However, each way has its own impacts on the environment due to factors like water footprint and other production methods used. More research needs to be done in order to find out how much of an effect these things have on the environment.
It is important to consider how much you are eating in terms of its health benefits, but it is also just as crucial to look at the production process itself when considering environmental impacts.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FCRN or its sponsors.
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Stockpiles of Whey Acid Building Up
Greek yogurt production creates about 70% of the whey acid used in agriculture. Company officials have been evasive on the consequences of importing bulk quantities of whey from China, saying that they will announce them at a later date.
Any little leak in the environment, as we’ve previously stated, might be catastrophic; there is currently no long-term solution. It’s an ecologically hazardous production process that isn’t sustainable. For more Animal, Earth, Life, and Vegan food and recipes, check out the One Green Planet newsletter.
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Whey Acid Dumping
For almost three years, the Minerva Cheese Factory making strained yogurt and infant formula poisoned the Creek and eliminated Salmon River’s 1.5-mile-long fish natural environment. It is only the first of several recorded cases where acids were discovered.
The acid from whey depletes carbon dioxide from the water and kills fish and plants in its atmosphere when used in waterways. In 2008, a cheese factory in Saratoga Springs, NY agreed to pay a $20,000 fine for dumping whey into a tributary of the Hudson River.
The impact of acid waste on global warming is significant. In Connecticut alone, about 200 million gallons of whey are deposited every year according to the Organic Valley Farms company. The acidic liquid has been identified as contributing to the release of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.
According to records, at least 5 million gallons of whey were documented in the Hudson River back in 2008.
The environmental damage was not stopped until it reached New York City when residents complained about a foul smell and taste in their water supply. Most reports even suggested that there was a potentially harmful unknown substance in the River.
Cowspiracy Report Reveals the Impact of Dairy Farming on the Environment
The first episode of Cowspiracy explored how much animal agriculture is related to climate change, deforestation, and species extinction. The documentary also focused on how the dairy industry has been found guilty to be one of the leading causes of these environmental problems.
One report claims that around 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture on a global scale.
Cowspiracy emphasized how organic dairy farms can worsen climate change because of methane emitted from cows’ farts. Moreover, it disclosed how industrial animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of rainforest deforestation and habitat loss.
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How does acid whey affect the atmosphere?
Acid whey can be a source of nitrous oxide emissions, which is a compound that has been widely associated with the development of smog and acid rain. In general, this gas contributes to global warming because it prevents heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere.
In terms of ozone layer protection, nitrous oxide can react with other compounds in the air to form nitric acid. This can then cause ozone loss by weakening stratospheric ozone, which serves as a barrier to harmful ultraviolet rays.
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Fertilizer for livestock reaching the water
Another option for yogurt producers to solve the whey acid issue is to sell it to farmers in order to blend it and fertilize the land.
The difficulty is that the farm has a greater acidity, which converts waste products into useful things. Manure and fertilizer manufactured on-site in the soil sink into waterways, causing widespread worries. There are no reports on what specific pesticides or fertilizers are used when the milk is being processed.
In 2014, only 200 gallons of whey from dairy farms in Indiana made it to a landfill, which means that there were about 1 million gallons that ended up in local waterways. The environmental damages associated with the release include wastewater treatment plants that released around 400,000 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Ohio River.
It seems that we should also start looking at other dairy products like cheese and butter as well since acid whey is not limited to yogurt alone. The problem can be resolved by using byproducts for energy creation, but there are still some health-related issues that are yet to be solved.
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Greek yogurt in itself is not bad for the environment, what makes it worse is the process of production since it uses whey acid for whey decomposition which is a runny waste product that contributes to global warming which causes harm to the natural environment. The yogurt food industry should implement environmentally friendly recipes.