An Introduction to whey, whey utilization and its benefits

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An Introduction to whey, whey utilization and its benefits


Whey is a valuable byproduct produced during production of butter, cheese, etc. Whey is divided into two type acid whey and sweet whey depending on the manufacturing process. It is rich in proteins, minerals and lactose which is lost when whey is dumped also creating water pollution. Utilization of whey just does not help reduce pollution but also decrease loss of the industry. It also can be utilized by in small scale in farms as a feed for animal. Animal don’t consume whey directly but they will if missed with hay which helps to reduce water consumption up to 100%. Whey powder is used in dairy products, bakery products, etc by replacing some amount of milk also increasing nutrition vale.

KEYWORDS: Whey, utilization of whey, benefits of whey


Whey is the soluble fraction of milk, rich in proteins, minerals and lactose, that is separated from the casein during the manufacture of rennet coagulated cheese, rennet casein or acid casein. The whey produced from rennet coagulated casein or cheese is referred to as sweet whey whereas that from mineral or lactic acid-coagulated casein is called acid whey [4]. Waste discharges generated from the factory primarily consist of product losses, wash waters and whey, a liquid byproduct originating from cheese manufacture which constitutes the greater part of the resulting pollution loads, mainly biological [8].Whey is obtained from dairy industries. It is generally disposed into sewage which creates major problem of pollution besides the loss of valuable nutrients [4]. The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) of 5 day is a measure of the organic pollutant concentration in the wastewater, and the amount is proportional to milk or whey lost to the sewer. Wastewater produced by normal diary production plant is in the range of 2000 to 3000 mg/l which is 10 times the strength of domestic sewage. If a milk spill occurs the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) can go much higher and the pH can fluctuate widely if spent CIP chemicals are carelessly discharged [10]. Whey has been considered a byproduct by dairy industries for long time but recently in past years whey has been considered as a good source of nutrition’s [4]. Whey based beverages production started in 1970's and until today a wide range of different whey beverages has been developed. These beverages can be produced from native sweet or acid whey, deproteinised whey, native whey which was diluted with water, whey powder or by whey fermentation [5].

Classification of whey

Whey is byproducts produced from the milk while making butter, cream, cheese, casein. Whey is classified to two types:

Sweet whey

Sweet whey contains pH of about 6.02 to 6.58. Sweet wheyis manufactured during the making ofrennettypes of hard cheese likecheddar orSwiss cheese.It has a pH of >5.6, results from rennet-coagulated cheese manufacture.

Acid whey

Acid whey contains pH of about 3.57 to 4.341. Acid whey(sour whey) is obtained during the making of acid types of cheese such ascottage cheese [1]. Although the composition of each whey type is somewhat different and variable, both sweet and acid whey contain about 0.7% to 0.8% protein on a liquid basis, with whey proteins only representing about 10% to 12% of the total solids of whey. Acid whey is richer in amino acids. When whey contains casein, it is called Casein whey, but after the removal of casein, it is known as Cheese whey.

Whey protein typically comes in two major forms. They are:

  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

Whey protein concentrates are produced by ultrafiltration of whey. They can be in liquid or dry form and have a protein content typically ranging from 34 to less than 90% [9].

  • Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

Isolates are whey in its purest form. They are formed when the protein concentration exceeds 90%. They are processed to remove the fat, and lactose, but are usually lower in bioactivated compounds. Like whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates are mild to slightly milky in taste. Whey protein isolate powders have the most amount of protein per serving and are generally priced higher than concentrate. The manufacturers refine whey protein isolate using microfilters and ion exchanges to reduce the level of lactose and fat in the product. This may make whey protein isolate an acceptable choice for those who are lactose intolerant [2].

Whereas, whey supplements comes in other three major types. They are:

  • Pure Whey Isolates (PWI)

Whey isolate powders are more expensive, but they contain the highest amount of protein per serving and have no carbs, lactose, and fat content.

  • Whey Protein hydrolysate (WPH)

Hydrolysates are whey proteins that are predigested and partially hydrolyzed for the purpose of easier metabolizing at a controlled temperature and pH, but their cost is generally higher. Highly-hydrolysed whey may be less allergenic than other forms of whey. Whey protein hydrolysates find uses inhigh value specialist nutritional applications such as tube-feeding preparations or special dietarysupplements. In a hydrolysate, efforts are taken to get all the protein into peptides of two to five amino acids, with few free amino acids and no larger peptides. Interestingly, some peptides released from milk proteins can be biologically active. Some can transport calcium from the gut into the blood during digestion and some can inhibit enzymes in the human body involved in excessive blood pressure. Choice of the right enzymes and careful control of the hydrolysis process are required to make the desired hydrolysate product.

  • Whey Protein Blend (WPB)

Whey protein blend is the blend between the whey protein isolate and whey protein protein concentration.

Recovery processes

Whey must be processed as soon as possible after collection, as its temperature and composition promote the growth of bacteria. Otherwise the whey should be quickly cooled down to about 5°C to temporarily stop bacterial growth. If legally permitted, whey can be preserved by addition of sodium bisulphite, typically 0.4 % calculated as sulphur dioxide (SO2), or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), typically 0. 2 % of a 30 % hydrogen peroxide solution [3].

The principles of industrial recovery processes of whey. They usually occur before evaporation and/or spray drying. Membrane processes are used for the separation of ingredients with different molecular sizes. Microfiltration is used for the removal of bacteria and fat globules, ultra filtration for the fractionation of proteins, nanofiltration for desalting, and reverse osmosis for the separation of water [12].

  1. Nutrients in Whey

Involved of whey minerals has been found in the regulation of the water flow by osmosis between different regions of the body. Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is prevented by whey salts which composition reveals a low ratio of sodium/potassium (0.3). The growth of bones and teeth is supported by calcium and phosphate, also perform a variety of other functions in the body. Lactose present in the intestinal tract facilitates the absorption of calcium from whey.

Excretion of calcium in urine is reduced by presence of phosphate. 20 different amino acids, linked together to form whey proteins. The β-sheet and α-helix are the most important ones from the amino acid chain which may be structured in different shapes. Insoluble amino acids are inaccessible for water and enzymes because these structures are folded in a compact protein structure. In the stomach and intestinal tract unfolding of whey proteins allows digestion by acids and enzymes [12].

  • Lactoferrin

The antibacterial activity in the mammary gland and the nutritional activity by making iron more available for absorption in the gut.

  • Lactoperoxidase

Lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase appear to have beneficial effects in reducing the incidence of chronic diarrhoea.

  • Lysozyme

It causes lysis of certain bacteria by disruption of their cell walls. Well-known applications are the prevention of late gas blowing and off-flavours in cheese, caused by the growth of butyric acid-producing bacteria.

  • immunoglobulin-A

It plays a major role in defending new-borns against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens during the first days of their life.

From the trace elements.

  • Copper

It is identified as an essential component of many metalloproteins, including some vital enzymes. Copper-containing enzymes are involved in the release of energy during respiration and the synthesis of structural proteins such as collagen.

  • Zinc

It performs many functions, like the stimulation of the insulin activity for the absorption of glucose from blood.

  • Iron

It is part of several metalloproteins such as haemoglobin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, catalase, and supports several important functions as a carrier of oxygen. Lactoferrin may withhold undesirable bacteria from binding iron so that their growth in the intestines is inhibited.

  • Iodine

It is part of the thyroid hormone, which plays a major role in regulating growth and development of new-borns.

The vitamins in whey are water soluble, and support physiological functions in the body.

  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

It is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

It is known to be essential for growth and tissue repair.

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

It is well known as an anti-oxidant that protects the body against damaging oxidizing agents.

  • Vitamin B6

It’s functions primarily in protein metabolism. B6 also prevents inflammations of the mouth, nose, and ears.

  • Choline

It is required for the synthesis of phospholipids.

  • Orotic acid

It appears to contribute to the reduction of the cholesterol content. Constituents in the microgram range are bioactive peptides, which are sequences of amino acids from (whey) proteins with specific biological functions

  • Taurine

It has been recently been identified as a dietary nutritional compound for infants. Taurine is also involved in the absorption of fat in the small intestine and the regulation of the nervous system. This amino acid is sulphur-containing, which plays a role in the development of the central nervous system in infants. Human milk contains sufficient taurine, but its occurrence in cow’s milk is too low for babies. Most infant formulas are therefore enriched with 40-45 mg/l of this amino acid.

  • Cobalt

This element is an essential part of vitamin B12, which prevents pernicious (harmful) anemia.

More than 25 enzyme activities are present in the milk lipid globule membrane, which is

partially present in whey[12].

Benefits and Achievements

For Farms:

  • Water intake at the farm is replaced by 100% of whey.
  • Liquid feeds are expensive compared to low cost alternative whey, at a fraction of the cost (less than 10% of molasses).
  • The energy provided by 2.4kilogram of 88% crude protein feed mix/roughage is replaced by 19 liters of liquid whey permeate
  • Roughage intake per kg gain can be reduced from 3kg to 1kg (75% weighing (200kg/head) being fattened to 400kg, an additional income of LE200/head will be achieved.
  • The feed palatability, texture, and dust control of feedlot rations is improved by whey. A balanced nutrition of energy, protein, minerals, is provided and a safety factor to compensate for poor quality diets.
  • Whey can save on feeding overheads as it requires less labor and feeding and mixing equipment, and can provide an economic and convenient method to feed urea supplements, vitamins, minerals and feed additives being a pump able supplement, [7].

For Dairy Factories:

  • Needs no development requirements and low capital investment and 100% recovery of a previously wasted byproduct.
  • Environmental pollution, namely BOD, COD, TSS and TDS is reduced by reducing or eliminating whey disposal at the factory.
  • Reduction of Oil and Grease by 415 ton, 522 ton, 58 ton, 218 ton, and 62 ton, respectively has allowed the factory to move towards compliance with industrial wastewater discharge Law. Discharge volume reduced by 5970m3/year.
  • Up to 25% reduction in wastewater disposal and end of pipe treatment requirements costs [7].

6. Applications of whey products

Whey components either as functional or as nutritional supplements in food products are numerous

  • Dairy products

In dairy products milk is repaced by 25% to 50% of WPC or demineralized delactosed whey powder. Examples : Ice cream, Yoghurt, Chocolate drinks.

  • Confectionery products

Confectionery products are protein-type foams, which are highly sensitive to fatty components and WPC may replace these fatty components only when the residual fat in WPC has been removed. Both condensed (concentrated) whey and sweetened condensed whey is used in the confectionery industry. Sweetened condensed whey is concentrated sweet whey that contains 60% sucrose. Examples: Aerated confections, Candy products, Chocolates.

  • Bakery products

WPC is used as a nutritious supplement in bakery products. The mix of milk proteins was composed of 60% whey proteins and 40% casein, which provided the required nutritional contribution to the biscuits prepared from the commonly used flours. Whey proteins have a number of properties in common with egg (white) proteins, and many attempts have been made to substitute WPC for egg white proteins in bakery products. Examples: Bread, Biscuits, Cakes.

  • Meat/Fish products

The “free water” after the slaughtering is expelled during the “rigor mortis” stage and part of this loss can be restored with the help of salts and milk proteins such as WPC’s such as low temperature gelling WPC-80. Example: Hams

  • Comminuted meat products

Milk proteins (Caseinates) used for fat binding in luncheon meat emulsion, but WPC’s can also be used. The tenderness and water holding capacity in these of luncheon can improve. Example: Surimi

  • Comminuted fish products

In acid sauces and acid soups WPC’s are advantageously used because of their good acid solubility and their high water binding properties. Example: Soups and sauces

  • Infant formula

The casein and whey proteins nutritional role pleaded in favor of changing the ratio of whey proteins/casein from 20/80 in cow’s milk to 60/40 as present in human milk. This leaded to the start of so-called whey-predominant formula prepared by mixing equal amounts of skim milk and demineralized whey. Example: Term formula, Pre-term formula, Follow-on formula.

  • Dietetic foods

Diets low in fat and high in protein and complex carbohydrates (such as starch) consumption contributes to the prevention of weight gain in normal weight persons and whey is also high quality proteins and bioavailable calcium for (elderly) people. Example: Slimming foods, Diets for elderly, Clinical foods.

  • Pharmaceuticals

The main component of whey is lactose which is the most significant non active substance in pharmaceutical use. Example: Tablets, Inhalers, Nutritional drugs.

  • Nutraceuticals

Food products or ingredients that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of diseases. Example: Bioactive proteins, Probiotics, Prebiotics [12].

Recommendations for the cheese plants

It was determined that several companies have additional processing capacity. Whey processors believe the market for raw whey is very competitive due to multiple buyers bidding for limited available volumes. Processors acknowledge that some supplies of whey are “stranded” without a market due to several factors. The following recommendations to cheese plants are intended to address issues that will enable greater whey utilization and increased economic returns.

  • Address Whey Volume Constraints

Very small cheese plants may not have sufficient volume to assemble a tanker load of raw whey from one day of cheese production. Shipping whey in small volumes is more expensive per pound of whey solids. A small plant can consider cooling whey and combining volume from two production days in order to reduce transportation cost.

  • Assure Effective Skimming

Few whey processors are able to receive whey that has not been skimmed. Keeping the cheese plant’s whey separator operating in good repair is critical to assure ongoing whey shipments.For those cheese plants not skimming their whey, the sale of whey cream can be a significant contributor to the plant’s bottomline.

  • Cooling

If whey is cooled to less than 45 degrees F after separation, the cheese plant is able to extend processing shelf life by several days. This practice provides additional flexibility and value to the whey processor. Cheese plants without adequate cooling can improve their whey marketing position by upgrading their cooling capacity.

  • Contamination

Whey processors need the best whey to produce high quality products. Whey that is contaminated with various specialty cheese flavors and salt drippings are difficult to utilize. Added color and curd wash water are other problems. Cheese plants that minimize all of these non whey components will find greater demand for their raw whey.

  • Sanitation

Whey needs to be handled in a sanitary manner to reduce bacteria growth and assure the most marketable quality. Whey transfer lines, equipment and process tanks must be cleaned daily.

  • Cooled

Whey holding tanks need to be emptied and cleaned every 72 hours.

  • Certifications

Kosher, Halal and E.U. quality certification is requured for the whey purchase, most whey processors require. Cheese plants that can offer these certifications will have more success marketing their whey [11].


For mammals milk has been one of the oldest functional foods available. Mammals depend on milk for nutrition and immune protection from birth. Scientists are beginning to develop an understanding of the various components of milk, including whey, and how they may impact health and disease [6].

The functional and nutritional efficacy of whey ingredients is still growing, and interesting results may be expected. Worldwide, an annual source of more than 100 billion kilograms of whey is potentially available for use as valuable ingredients in food and feed products [12].


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