Greek Yogurt Is Destroying The Earth But My Kids Eat It For Every Single Meal

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shutterstock_117421366Greek yogurt has an evil dark side that no one talks about.  Acid whey, the by-product of the yogurt making process, is causing a world-wide toxic waste problem, which is probably more important than the panic I feel over having to try to find something else to feed my kids at every meal.

My son is a very picky eater, but he doesn’t follow the rules of typical toddler likes.  He won’t touch white bread or brightly colored yogurts.  Instead he wolfs down crunchy multi-grain Pullman bread and plain Greek yogurt.  My daughter, who is a great eater, happens to love plain Greek yogurt too, which pretty much confirmed to me that what you eat while pregnant affects your unborn baby because I ate that stuff by the bucket-load with fresh berries during both of my pregnancies.

While a lot of my friends thought this was strange (they won’t even touch one of the flavored versions), I was just happy they were eating and that we could all share the same bowl. When I heard the news that Greek yogurt is particularly good for your health – full of calcium, packed with protein and healthy fats (we eat the whole milk variety) – I patted myself on the back for being lazy and a good mom at the same time!  Until I read that Greek yogurt is destroying the Earth.

According to Modern Farmer, the Greek yogurt toxic by-product, acid whey is a massive problem:

For every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey. It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas.

One such example of this dead sea consequence?

In 2008, Minerva Cheese Factory agreed to pay more than $6,000 in restitution after it accidentally released acid whey into Sandy Creek, Ohio, which temporarily depleted oxygen levels and killed more than 5,400 fish along a 1.5 mile stretch downstream.

No one could have predicted the explosion of consumer demand in the Greek yogurt industry and now scientists are scrambling to find a solution before people find out about this dark side of their favorite snack.  According to the same article in Modern Farmer, ” the yogurt industry is highly secretive and competitive.”

As it is, nearly all of the acid whey is being handed off to farmers to mix with their cow feed.  The farmers accept the by-product — even though it’s like “feeding a candy bar” to their cattle and causes digestive problems in the cows if given in large quantities — because the yogurt makers are paying them to take the problem off their proverbial plates.

In searching for answers to this toxic issue, scientists are looking to follow in the footsteps of cheese makers, who can easily convert sweet whey, the cheese by-product. Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell, who “specializes in filtration methods for separation and recovery of protein, has his sights set on the tiny amount of protein in acid whey. He believes it might be usable as an infant formula ingredient.”

Death (of fishes), scandal, hush money, and top-secret solutions unearthed by mad scientists. Who knew the Greek yogurt industry was so intriguing? Someone call Shonda Rhimes — I see a pitch meeting for a new series, “Chobani Confidential.”

(photo: Sunny Forest/Shutterstock)


  1. KatieLady

    May 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    LMBO “Chobani Confidential”…and yet, freaking S C A R Y that this toxic stuff made this man think: Hey, lets put that [email protected] in BABY FORMULA..!!

    • Carinn Jade

      May 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Right? It kills fish, is the candy equivalent for cows and upsets their digestive tract, but somehow it would be ok for babies? Mad scientists, I say!

    • Carinn Jade

      May 24, 2013 at 10:37 pm

      I know, right? Kills fish, candy bar equivalent for cows, but somehow it might work in infant formula?? Thankfully I’m not a scientist cause I don’t get it.

    • Gangle

      May 25, 2013 at 9:17 am

      Just to clear something up, whey isn’t inherently toxic itself. It is actually nutrient rich, which is what causes all the trouble for fish.
      It is an effect called ‘Eutrophication’.

      When too many nutrients are introduced to a waterway/pond/lake, it causes a bloom of algae, bacteria, or both. This ‘bloom’ depletes the water of oxygen, leaving nothing for the fish, so they die.

      So while it is still bad news for waterways, it isn’t actually poison.

  2. Alex Lee

    May 24, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Trying to ease some of the guilt here.

    Whey is currently used in all those protein-powders, shakes, nutrition bars (e.g. Clif), and, in the specific case of acid-whey, salad dressings.

    Outside of food-products, this one link indicates how acid whey can be utilized in hair and skin products:

    ..and even, uh, drunk straight as a refreshing chilled beverage.

    Failing all that, the cited article says how they’re combining this waste product with more waste (manure) to make METHANE. That can be burned to run an electric turbine which equals money to the power company.

    So, I think you should let your family continue eating the Greek yogurt – let the food industries handle the other details.

    • Amanda Low

      May 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      Putting on my Negative Nancy hat for a sec…just because acid whey *can* be used for good doesn’t mean the yogurt companies *will* use it for good. My guess is they’ll do whatever’s most convenient for them, which may not be in the best interests of the environment. But I don’t work for the yogurt companies so I’m just speculating.

    • Alex Lee

      May 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      It’s a gamble that every corporation takes with materials disposal. Do they risk illegal dumping just to make a quick profit while trying to avoid discovery, fines, and punitive measures?

      So, we know now that this stuff can’t be flushed straight down the toilet. Let’s find better solutions for the whole industry – use it for fertilizer or insecticide. It’s got nutrient value for something.

    • Psych Student

      May 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

      So there’s a *chance* I won’t burn in hell if I keep eating Greek yogurt? I’ve really taken to the stuff in the past couple weeks and this article makes me want to never buy it again.

  3. LindsayC

    May 24, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Make your own! It’s really pretty simple, and all you need is a pot, thermometer, thermos, and something to strain with (dish towel or cheesecloth). If you are the type with inclination and time to do it, it’s awesome, even a little empowering, to know you made it yourself. Plus, it’s cheaper. The whey is calcium rich and can be added to soup or smoothies.

  4. outlaw mama

    May 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I am not kidding here: I am eating greek yogurt while reading this. I am eating it because I gave up some other shit. THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO EAt.

    • Abigail

      July 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm


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