Milk production continues to increase, steadily in developed countries (Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia) but with the highest rate of increase in developing countries (China and India). As standards of living increase, dairy products are becoming a staple in diets for people across the world. Dairy product consumers are also changing the way that they are eating dairy foods, shifting towards modified milks, yoghurts and especially cheese; this trend is predicted to increase into the foreseeable future, resulting in increasing quantities of whey which needs to be utilised or sent to waste. Dairy manufacturers are also required to respond to increasing legislative and environmental pressures (waste disposal, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel and water availability), yet remain profitable in a very competitive market.
In response to these pressures, dairy farms are amalgamating to create larger farming units; smaller factories are closing, with the remaining large dairy factories aiming at increasing economies of scale. This has both positive and negative effects on the environmental impact of dairy processing; large-scale production concentrates the impact of waste and emissions on to a small area, yet also allows greater efficiencies and capabilities for implementing processes for recycling and producing co-products.
One future option to increase co-product recovery is to create networks of manufacturers to collect together their resources, increasing economies of scale for the utilisation of waste by-products (Durham et al. 1998). For example, a centralised whey processing facility pooling whey from several cheese manufacturers is more able to implement new technologies for processing and marketing a range of whey co-products. High-value whey products aimed at the nutraceutical and functional food markets (e.g. whey protein isolates, bioactive peptides, whey protein hydrolysates, pharmaceutical a- and p-lactose, galacto-oligosaccharides and dairy minerals), increase the profitability of such ventures. Lower cost co-products utilising the bulk of the whey, and employing cleaner production practices, would ensure the continued environmental viability of the industry. Examples of these co-products include: liquid permeates used in dairy product standardisation; hydrolysed lactose syrups used in soft drinks and whey drinks; and demineralised and whole whey powders used in infant formula, ice cream and baked foods.
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