Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 3 May 2012 Download

Large quantities of whey are produced in cheesemaking. Whey can be harmful to the environment if disposed onto farmland or into waterways and is now widely used as a valuable ingredient in the food industry. Here, Miel Meyer, General Manager of Meyer Gouda Cheese, explains the rotational policy used by his company to minimise its impact on the environment.

Teaching points:

  • Follow up with research into how and why whey developed from a waste product of cheesemaking into a valuable co-product. Identify and discuss the technological and societal influences that drove the development.
  • Try some of the experiments in the unit plan What to do with whey waste?
  • Miel Meyer (Meyer Gouda Cheese
    The amount of whey produced from each half-tonne batch of cheese would be about a third of the volume, so 1000–2000 litres of whey from 4000–5000 litres of milk.

    Whey is actually quite toxic for the environment, so if you were to pour it in one spot, it will create a subsoil layer of fat, which is really bad for the soil – plants won’t grow and therefore the cows won’t be able to eat and produce milk. So what we do is we have a rotational policy where we do spread the whey onto the farm, which is cheap, effective and gives a bit of nutrition to the paddocks, but it’s important that we rotate the spreading of that whey so not to create that subsoil layer of fat.

    Nowadays, especially in the large-scale manufacturing, whey is actually quite a valuable commodity. There’s a huge nutritional value so there’s huge developments going on. You can produce whey powders for body building in gyms or infant formulas and things like that, so it could be something for us in the future – instead of dispose our whey onto the farmland to actually make it into something.

    Dylan Campbell