The What, Where and Why of Whey

The Spare Food Shed
Written by:
Jeremy Kaye
Co-Founder,
The Spare Food Co.
Jeremy Kaye Headshot

When we tell you that we are whey-obsessed, we mean it. It’s kept us up at night. It’s monopolized conversations with friends, spouses and sometimes strangers. We may even have doodled its name on the fronts, backs and whole pages of our notebooks (we definitely have done this.) It’s fueled the launch of The Spare Food Co.’s first product. And it’s worthy not only of enjoyment, but of an explanation.

First, what is Whey? Whey is the co-product of Greek-style yogurt production. In this process, cultured milk is strained to remove liquid and create the thick, creamy yogurt we know and love. About 2 cups of liquid whey is produced for every 1 cup of yogurt. In the United States--where Greek yogurt is a $7-billion industry--most of that whey gets trashed. Which really is a waste. Compared to the practices of other cultures who appreciate yogurt, it’s heresy… seriously. 

Whey is loaded with probiotics, nutrients and electrolytes. It’s been enjoyed as a superfood for millennia. Why would we ever want to throw that away?

Why do we care? (i.e., why might you also care?) Aside from missing out on these vital nutrients, the physical discarding of whey is problematic. Whey is acidic, so it needs to be neutralized before being dumped into the waste stream. When this doesn't happen, surrounding ecosystems are damaged: groundwater pH is disrupted, crop yields are lowered, and aquatic life dies off from a depletion of oxygen levels in the waterways. 

For the yogurt industry (and environment) at large, whey as waste is a problem. We see a solution: keep whey as the valuable food source that it is. It’s not waste. It’s an ingredient. 

Hippocrates, often described as “The Father of Modern Medicine,” wrote in 400 BC of prescribing whey serums to his patients to boost immunity. Cultures all over the globe drink whey to support gut health. With its ability to hydrate and provide electrolytes (up to 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration) it makes perfect sense to create  a modern version of this ancient superfood to meet the needs of our modern lifestyles. 

In its unadulterated form, whey is a vibrant almost-neon yellow--liquid gold, in our eyes. To begin, it tastes unmistakably like a fermented dairy beverage--not necessarily a universal crowd pleaser (though Chef and Co-Founder Adam could drink it by the gallon.)But through a flavor process that can only be described as alchemical--using only 3 real-food ingredients in addition to the whey--Adam has transformed this raw ingredient into something so craveable and drinkable for all manner of occasion, it’s hard for us to fathom that whey was ever overlooked.

The where of our whey also deserves attention. We source our whey from The White Moustache in Brooklyn, NY. They use milk from Hudson Valley farms and use careful, hand-processing techniques passed down through generations to make their yogurt. Simply put, the whey they produce is consistently incredible and is created to be enjoyed. It’s a symbiotic partnership based on a reverence for whey.

Adam likes to say that the ethos of The Spare Food Co. is captured in every can of Spare Tonic. We take an unused ingredient and craft it into a delicious food. In the process, we eliminate climate-destructive waste, support a regional food system of farmers, producers and vendors, and bring a healthful product to market.

So, why ever not whey?

It’s a healthy, sustainable solution for people, planet and place.

 

Photo credit: Eric Sung

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