Whey is the fluid by product of cheese manufacture. It is produced in far greater volume than cheese, the ration of whey to cheese being about 10:1. For numerous reasons, whey is underutilized and not more than half of the United States production used. The rest, amounting to billion of pounds represents a waste disposable problem.
Considering the growing rate of cheese production and the ever-tightening constraints in the disposal of processing plant effluents, the problem of what to do with whey is one of major proportions. Whey comprises about 5% lactose, 2% other milk components and 93% water.
The utilization of whey is impeded mainly by the fact that its major solids component, lactose, is not easily digested by a large part of the world’s population, is not fermented by many microorganisms and is only about one third as sweet as sucrose.
Therefore, to obtain a particular sweetness it is required in larger amounts than other sugar. Whey can be made sweeter by hydrolyzing the lactose with lactase producing glucose and galactose.
Glucose and galactose are sweeter than lactose; therefore, the resultant whey is a more effective sweetener. With hydrolysis of the lactose, the resulting sugars are metabolizable by that’s segment of the population that cannot tolerate lactose in its diet.
Of the few microorganisms that can ferment lactose, Kluyveromyces fragilis has been reported to be the most efficient. Many typical fermentation organisms are unable to ferment lactose.
Glucose is readily utilized by fermenting organisms (such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Since only the glucose is readily fermentable, is the production of alcoholic beverages from whey, it is necessary to add sugar even when the lactose has been hydrolyzed, the sugar requirement is even higher.
Attempts to find uses for whey have produced numerous practical applications. It has been used in the manufacture of liquid breakfast, snack drinks, alcoholic drinks, imitation milks, soft drinks, baked goods, lactic acid, vinegar, ice cream, sherbet, ice pops, fudge, candy caramel and other confections.
One of its functions in many applications is as a substitute for nonfat dry milk. Whey can be used to produce a sweet syrup that, while not economically competitive with corn syrup, has potential value because of its properties as a humectant and a texture enhancer. Current investigations indicate that whey may be used in the production of wine.
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