Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

The ‘Valorlact’ project shows that it is possible to make use of over 80% of the whey from Basque cheese-making dairies

Contributed by: ELHUYAR

Making use of more than 80% of the whey produced at cheese-making dairies in the Basque Country and using it to produce foodstuffs for human and animal consumption is viable, as has been shown in the ‘Valorlact’ project funded by the European Commission’s Life+ programme.
The results of the research show that the whey does not have to be regarded as a waste product and should be included in the food chain, which means a fresh business opportunity for the cheese-making and foodstuff production sectors. The programme has been coordinated by the Directorate for Foodstuff Quality and Industries of the Department of Economic Development and Competitiveness. Azti-Tecnalia, an expert R&D centre in marine and foodstuff innovation, has been responsible for the technical coordination, while the other participants have been Neiker-Tecnalia and the companies Iberlact and BM Ingeniería.

New foodstuffs, animal feed and the production of biogas are three of the main uses that the partners in the ‘Valorlact’ project are proposing in order to manage and make the most of the whey from the cheese-making dairies, which in the Basque case add up to about 130 facilities that generate about 32 million litres of whey every year. This by-product is the liquid resulting from the coagulation of the milk in the cheese-making process once the casein and the fat have been separated. So it is an organic element that is routinely regarded as a waste product and which could cause pollution if it is not properly dealt with. The project has been developed in the Basque Country but its results could be extended to the cheese-making and foodstuff sector in any region facing a similar problem.

Within the project, Azti-Tecnalia has developed new food prototypes; specifically, a dairy product that can be sliced and grated, a sauce with the flavour and aroma of mature cheese, a drink combining fruit juice, and a soluble product with cacao. These foods have been fully validated for consumption and their shelf life is over 35 days, and more than six months in the specific case of the soluble cacao. The tasting sessions have also revealed their acceptation among consumers in terms of their organoleptic properties. The concentrated whey content (20% of solid matter) is 21% in the case of the soluble cacao product, around 50% in the dairy product and the drink with fruit juice, and 62% in the case of the cheese-flavoured sauce.

A food reserve of great value

During the cheese-making process, between 7 and 9 litres of whey are produced per litre of cheese produced. This liquid consists mostly of water (93-94%), but its solid component is a food reserve of great nutritional value. Its main components are lactose (4-5%), proteins (1.1-1.5%), fat (0.2-0.5%), vitamins and mineral salts, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. One of its main high, added-value applications is the obtaining of protein concentrates and protein isolates which are used to produce foodstuffs and which have a market price of about 90 euro cents per kilo.



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