Yes WHEY, Wisconsin!
When you think of Wisconsin, what comes to mind? You might have pictured cows, cheese, cranberries, or even corn fields, but did you know that Wisconsin is the leading state in the production of dry whey? No way, right? Yes WHEY! Dry whey is often used in baked goods, processed cheese products, beverages, and protein nutrient supplements.
In 2019, Wisconsin produced more than 285 million pounds of dry whey for human consumption, almost 30 percent of the nation’s total production. Wisconsin produced 105.5 million pounds of whey protein concentrate in 2019 and is home to nine processing facilities that make and process dry whey for human consumption. As “America’s Dairyland,” it makes sense that we are a top producer of whey as it is a byproduct of cheese, casein, and yoghurt production.
In the cheese making process, milk is split into curds and whey. Curds are eventually made into cheese and whey is drained off to be used in various other products. Whey is typically watery, yellow in color, rich in nutrients, and contains lactose, protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Whey can be used as an additive in cattle feed or purified back into clean water so it can be used again. To make whey powder, liquid whey is pasteurized and dried into a powder through reverse osmosis and vacuum evaporation.
Whey protein is commonly used to improve athletic performance and address nutritional deficiencies. According to Mayo Clinic, whey protein provides substantial amounts of the essential amino acids that help carry out the functions that proteins perform in the body. Whey protein powder can be added to liquids, soft foods, such as applesauce, or blended into a smoothie or shake.
With many protein options on the market, why choose whey? It is a complete protein, meaning it features all essential amino acids or building blocks your body needs. Additionally, whey can help build and repair muscle after workouts. A high protein diet can also help preserve muscle with age, curb hunger, and maintain a healthy weight (U.S. Dairy). Whey protein powder is easily added into foods and beverages as it has a neutral flavor, dissolves easily in liquids, and provides a smooth texture.
Whey protein can also be used in baked goods, processed cheese products, sauces, dressings, prepared meat products, and beverages and act as a binder and extender in food products. Furthermore, demineralized whey protein can be used in the manufacturing of diet foods, baby foods, dry prepared mixes, and other food products that need specific mineral requirements.
The next time you drink a protein shake, use salad dressing, or even eat a piece of bread, check the label and see if the ingredients include whey. Consuming whey products are a great way to support dairy farmers across the country and in Wisconsin.
Julia Nunes is the 73rd Wisconsin Alice in Dairyland