“acid” whey, scare mongering, and the media

Ok, a bit of background.  For our wedding anniversary we bought ourselves an Instant Pot.  Not the cheapest thing ever, but I know several folks who have one and love it, and we decided to get one.  We’ve not used it as much as we’d have liked (hello stupid PIA New Year!) but I’ve had great results from almost everything we’ve tried in it.

This also means, that since I’m running mostly one handed right now and can’t lift the thing I’ve been researching recipes and options and what not instead of actually using it much.  I’ll be very likely trying yogurt in the near future (well, once I can use two hands to lift that gallon of milk with…..).

Many yogurt recipes, especially those based off of greek yogurt, call for you to strain the yogurt.  The resulting liquid is whey.  Specifically “acid” whey.  This results in alot of FB posts from people asking what to do with this whey.  The answer being use it to replace milk in many baked goods, add it to smoothies, feed it to your four legged pets…..and pour it in your garden as fertilizer.

The last suggestion results in a massive uproar EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Seems the media has made much fuss about “acid” whey.  Its ACIDIC don’t you know!  It’ll KILL THE FISH if it gets in the water ways!!!  OMG!!!!

See here, here, here, here…..even the articles that talk about what can be done to use the whey still help participate in the fear-mongering scare tactics.

Lets get a few things straight.

Acid whey has an average PH of 4.3-5.1 depending on the exact process and milk used.  This does certainly tip the side of the PH scale as acidic.

Apples have an average PH of 3.3-4.0.  Are we going to start calling apples “acid apples”?  Blueberries run 3.1-4.5.  Cooking vinegar (the stuff you buy at the grocery) runs at a PH of 2.4-2.6.  Vinegar is actually acidic enough to kill the green portion of most plants, but won’t actually kill the roots of most things.

Dumping large quantities of acid whey (or allowing large quantities to run off into waterways) does cause severe damage to waterways.  But not because its acidic.  The same damage would be caused if you dumped equal quantities of milk (PH 6.4-6.8) into the waterways, or human blood (PH 7.4), or the like.  It has to do with the introduction of large quantities of biological mass into a system not prepared to deal with it.  Folks who are serious fish tank keepers understand this concept even if they haven’t generalized it.

The small amounts of whey produced by the average home yogurt maker isn’t going to harm things if its poured into the garden.  Pouring it directly into a stream or the like might cause some damage, for the reasons stated above, but even there, in a moving water system its going to be diluted fast.  So don’t pour it into your fish pond, but the garden is fine.

If you actually pay attention to the above articles you’ll note that several of them state that farmers use it for fertilizer and the only limit on how much they use is avoiding run off of large quantities.

Its not going to kill your garden.  Well, I suppose if you poured all of your whey in the exact same spot, every day, for weeks on end and didn’t do any watering and it didn’t rain the plant in question might not be happy with you, but really….

So can we stop the fear mongering scare tactics yet??

5 Comments

  1. Comment by Mutti:

    Awesome information
    Just an FYI : Cuisine makes a Greek Yogurt Starter that does not have to be strained (If using cow milk). Sometimes the Yoguty just won’t set (time of year, level of Casin), so consider using Agar powder to help it set.

    I don’t use the Whey in the Garden for two reasons.

    1) Critters are then attracted to the Garden
    2) No critters results in a “spoiled milk” over time.

    (Read, but don’t comment here much)

    • Comment by Ruth:

      Which is at least an objection that makes sense! Though I didn’t notice any sour milk smell last summer and I used a fair bit of raw milk as fertlizer last year. But then I have a big yard, so that maybe makes a difference. And I get critters regardless.

      Thanks for reading, and commenting!

  2. Comment by Mrs. S.:

    A friend of ours re-started a cheese factory in western WI the year after he got married. It had been unused for quite a while. Locals told some stories of how the trout fishing in the stream next to it was really productive in the old days (1940’s-1960’s) when there were no regulations and the whey was dumped directly into the stream, complete with tiny bits of cheese. The trout loved eating the cheese, but had to avoid stagnant areas in the stream, because the whey breaking down did decrease oxygen levels and stank. The trout fishing declined sharply when the factory was required to pump the whey into an aeration pond. After some processing, it was then used for irrigation/fertilizer on local farm fields.

    Of course now days, commercial cheese factories usually separate & reduce the whey into lactose syrup and whey protein concentrate. The lactose ends up as candy coating for pills and sweeteners for all sorts of things. The WPC ends up in protein powders, energy bars, diet shakes, etc. When they are done, all that is left is mostly just water.

    In the winter I usually make yogurt on top of the pellet stove. I bring the milk to a boil on the stove, cool to 110, add starter, then set it on a metal rack on top of the pellet stove and let it sit for 6-8 hours. It maintains a nice, steady 110 deg. Not sure why you’d want to go to the trouble of straining it to make it thick. Don’t a lot of the good probiotics go away with the whey? Besides, hubby likes it runny. I only strain it if I want to make dip or perhaps a cucumber sauce to go with gyros.

    I need to find something for making yogurt in the summer, when the pellet stove is out of commission. The days are already getting warmer.

    • Comment by Mutti:

      Wonderful informations! Have you tried using a Yogtherm? After years, the plastic insert is long gone (Kids), however a wide mouth quart canning jar with a Tattler lid fits nicely. Prepare you Milk/Starter, place in Jar, and put in the Yogotherm. The insulation keeps it warm enough to “ripen”. I also have used a small styrofoam cooler with some success.

    • Comment by Ruth:

      You do loose at least some stuff in straining the whey. But thats the greek yogurt thing. I prefer a creamier/sweeter yogurt anyway. I’ve been looking at the recipes for Noosa. We’ll see!

      That’ll be one of the benefits of the Instant pot at least, no extra heat!

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