The Problem with Greek Yogurt and What You Can Do

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How Greek yogurt is causing problems for the environment and easy tips on how to help.

I love Greek yogurt and I know I’m not alone; production quadrupled between 2008 and 2013 in New York, where the majority of producers are located. There’s lots to love about Greek yogurt; we’ve all heard about the numerous health benefits (good source of protein, probiotics, calcium and less carbohydrates and sugar than regular yogurt), not to mention the incredibly rich and satisfying taste.

The Problem With Greek Yogurt

But, as it turns out, there is a problem with Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt requires three to four times as much milk to produce the same amount of yogurt as standard varieties; in other words, it takes about four ounces of milk to make one ounce of yogurt.  The remaining three ounces become acid whey, a watery bi-product, that wreaks havoc in the environment by destroying aquatic environments and killing marine life (1). This wasn’t so much of an issue several years ago, but since Greek yogurt has experienced a huge growth spurt in sales, producers are scrambling to come up with an environmentally sound policy for acid whey disposal.

Fortunately, this pressing issue is starting to receive more attention and various solutions are being explored, but for now, it remains a serious challenge. Short of abstaining from Greek yogurt all together (which most of us aren’t probably aren’t willing to do, myself included) I was curious to learn what could be done as a consumer. Here are some ideas:

How To Help The Problem With Greek Yogurt

1. Buy larger containers

Instead of buying the small individually packaged containers, try and purchase the larger (32 oz) size.  This reduces the overall waste involved in yogurt production, packaging and transportation (2).

2. Know your source

Buy local Greek yogurt whenever possible (I’m seeing it more and more at farmers markets) and look into the practices of the companies you purchase from.

How Greek yogurt is causing problems for the environment and easy tips on how to help.

3. Spread the word

I hadn’t heard about this issue until recently and while it’s starting to get more press it seems it still hasn’t gotten a ton of widespread coverage. Let friends and family members know about it and share these tips.

4. Avoid GMOs

I haven’t read anything that explicitly states there is an association between GMO’s and acid whey but I believe there is one. My thinking is that the brands that make a conscious effort to prohibit GMO ingredients are the ones that are more likely to be conscious of health and environmental issues in general. Here is a link to an overview and chart comparing the major yogurt brands but in a nutshell, the non-GMO winners are Stonyfield, Wallaby, Nancy’s and Strauss Creamery.

5. Make your own

Ok I know this one is a stretch and may not be realistic on a regular basis, but I have my eye on this. Reviewers swear it’s a super easy (and more cost effective) way to enjoy Greek yogurt.

6. Cut back on waste

I remember when I was little I used to dump out the liquid that formed on top of yogurt after it had been sitting in the fridge. Don’t do this! This liquid is the whey which is made of mostly water but also contains some calcium, protein and potassium. Besides the nutrition benefit, mixing it back in will make for a creamier yogurt texture. Here is a great article with ideas for using up that last bit of Greek yogurt.

 

There you go: There is a problem with Greek yogurt, but there is something you can do about it! Hope this helps.

 

  1. http://modernfarmer.com/2013/05/whey-too-much-greek-yogurts-dark-side/
  2. http://learn.uvm.edu/foodsystemsblog/2013/09/06/2660/

 

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