Greek Yogurt May Destroy the Environment, Still Worth It

The vast majority of the U.S. economy is now supported by purchases of inferior Greek yogurt. Americans love the shit. But are you aware of... Greek Yogurt's Dark Side???

That's right, yogurt snobs: there's more to Greek yogurt than delicious fruit compote toppings and a surprisingly refreshing ingredient in avocado smoothies. There's also the terrifying byproduct of the manufacturing process, "acid whey," which is pretty much the acid rain of a new generation, except not as destructive or horrible for the environment, terrifying name notwithstanding. Cows eat it! But cows eat anything. And they can't eat enough. So we are now threatened with a huge surplus of acid whey, as Justin Elliott reports:

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.

The various ways in which your Greek yogurt addiction will destroy the natural world are explored at length in this excellent story. Is the creamy flavor of Fage yogurt delicious enough to risk poisoning our waterways for years to come? The answer is yes.

If you like Chobani you probably like the taste of dead fish anyhow.

Update: Chobani's PR person sent us the following statement, for some reason:

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.

[Modern Farmer via The Awl. Photo: Mindy Hertzon/ Flickr]