Westby Creamery Upcycles Acid Whey

Image: Acid whey room; With this new equipment, the Westby Cooperative Creamery anticipates processing 6.9 million gallons of acid whey in 2022

Westby Cooperative Creamery has invested $1 million as a “whey” to become more resourceful in its cottage cheese making process.

“Being the only cottage cheese manufacturer in Wisconsin, the Creamery takes great pride in turning its farmers’ milk into something that’s both good for you and good for the environment,” says Emily Bialkowski, sales and marketing manager.

The demand for Westby cottage cheese has continued to grow over the years, and in turn, so has the byproduct of cottage cheese — acid whey. In making cottage cheese, approximately 14 percent of the skim milk is turned into cheese and the remaining is acid whey, which can be difficult to dispose of.

Before March 2020, the Creamery was able to sell all the acid whey, but since then the market has made disposal of acid whey very difficult.

With the uncertainty in the future of this byproduct, Westby Creamery made the decision to process the whey at the plant by installing equipment that filters out the protein, solids and water.

Doing so allows the creamery to sell the filtered material in a more desirable form to a wider customer base. The whey is turned into two usable products — permeate, as animal feed, and protein, which gets sold and is often used as an ingredient in nutritional supplements. It is the goal of the creamery to eventually reuse the water consumed from filtering acid whey.

Westby Creamery has invested $1 million dollars into this project and in turn, expects to process 6.9 million gallons of whey in 2022.

“As a dairy cooperative with over 145 small family farms that make their living off the land, we have a responsibility to actively research and invest in practices that help better our environment and the communities we live in,” says General Manager Pete Kondrup. “Turning acid whey into a usable product is one way we can do this.”