Preventing whey from affecting the environment by transforming it into foodstuffs destined for human and animal consumption as well as biofuel, is the aim of the VALORLACT project, funded by the European Commission’s LIFE+ Programme, which will last from 2012 to 2015. The initiative is seeking, among other things, to prevent whey from being treated as a waste product and going on to form part of the food chain; this constitutes a new business opportunity for the cheese-making sector and for foodstuff production. The overall co-ordination of the project corresponds to the Innovation and Foodstuffs Industries Directorate of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community; AZTI-Tecnalia is handling the technical co-ordination, while the other participants are Neiker-Tecnalia, BM engineering and Iberlact.
Cheese-making dairy whey is the liquid resulting from the coagulation of milk in the cheese-making process following the separation of the casein and the fat. As it is organic matter, it can turn into a contaminating element if it is not properly managed. That is why AZTI-Tecnalia experts, in collaboration with the other organisations involved, are going to design a plan of action which aims to recycle over 80% of the whey produced by cheese-making dairies in the Basque Country.
VALORLACT-“Integral use of the whey generated in the dairy sector” is seeking to demonstrate the viability of several technologies to transform whey into new, high-value foodstuffs geared towards human and animal consumption. The programme will be looking for global solutions for most of the cheese sector, but in particular it will be bearing in mind small and medium-sized producers for whom this will be an opportunity to diversify their offer and, consequently, to be more competitive.
Small and medium-sized cheese-making dairies currently lack the tools that could enable them to manage and enhance the whey, so the project could be very useful in providing them with a sustainable outlet for it. It will also help them to comply with environmental legislation and cut the costs arising out of dumping.
Other sectors set to benefit from the VALORLACT initiative are the human and animal foodstuff ones. The specialists in the participating organisations want to obtain new foodstuffs –in the form of dairy products, soups, beverages, etc. – that can provide various functionalities and offer consumers health benefits. For the animal foodstuff sector it is an opportunity to access a low-cost, raw material that will also enhance the nutritional quality of the fodder as it would have value-added ingredients.
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