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Whey or buttermilk is the liquid obtained after coagulate the milk in cheese production, once it is separated from the cheese curd (casein and fat). Per one kilo of cheese 9 litres of whey are produced. Thus, whey represents about 90% of milk volume and contains more than half of its nutrients.

Milk is one the richest foods that exists thanks to its high nutritional value. It is mainly comprised of water, fat, proteins, carbohydrates (lactose), calcium, minerals and salt. It contains 87% of water, which makes a heterogeneous and very complex blend where minerals and carbohydrates are dissolved, proteins are in suspension form and fats are in small particles insoluble in water.

While representing around 90% of milk, whey contains most part of its water-soluble compounds, 95% lactose (milk sugar), 25% proteins and 8% fatty matter. Although its composition varies depending on the origin of the milk and the type of the processed cheese, in general the approximate content is 93.1% water, 4.9% lactose, 0.9% raw protein, 0.6% minerals, 0.3% fat, 0.2% lactic acid and water-soluble vitamins. About 70% of raw protein found in the whey corresponds to proteins with a nutritional value greater than the casein one.


What is it used for?

For food industry, the whey from milk represents a source of proteins which gives numerous properties to a wide range of foods. Indeed, it is an excellent raw material in order to obtain different products in terms of technology or as a formulation mean in fermentation processes.


Whey and environment

Contrary to what may seem, the great nutritional value of whey makes it a highly polluting liquid if it is discharged into water and soil.

If it is discharged in a watercourse, the large amount of organic matter presents in the whey greatly increases the oxygen demand due to the unbalanced growth of certain bacteria, that are going to try to consume that organic matter. This reproduction of microorganisms creates an imbalance of oxygen dissolved in the environment, fishes cannot breathe and die.

In case of soil, the continuous discharge of whey modifies its physicochemical properties reducing the crop yields. It also generates leaching, because of the nitrogen which whey contains. This causes the upper soil layers losing their nutritive compounds and become more acid.