Conventional and Alternative Dairy Industries: Waste and Innovations

As part of the research towards food innovations and circular food economy challenges, we are beginning to explore several industries, starting with dairy and alternative dairy products.

Here are a couple of our initial questions for dairy and alternative:

  • What are some of the waste challenges that are driven by conventional and alternative dairy industries?
  • Examples to consider: animal vs. plant based dairy; monocrops [soy, almonds,etc]; or relevant processed foods [yogurt, ice cream, etc].
  • And, what are some of the more general innovation challenges that you’ve seen today in the conventional and alternative dairy industries? Are there any dairy projects that have stood out to you, or concepts you would like to see explored?

Share any thoughts, questions, ideas, or links you may have below!

One of the things I am very interested in hearing more about from this community are circular system examples of an industry taking its product “waste” (whether that be spoiled product or by-products). For example, milk contains the protein caesin which has been historically used as a material for some plastic products. Are there any companies that utilize this material from milk leftovers for their own plastic products/packaging? Or is this material used for something else, like preservatives?

Thank you @noel!

@akb @drjust @lmadden, @PHall @Wwallach @anilkumar @Warp0 @salmanzafar @williammadden @wimdelaat @jmw970 @dalemli, if you any input, ideas, or resources you may have around the dairy industry, Noel’s questions, and circular food economy, let us know here in the comments!

And thank you for your comments and introductions elsewhere, @eakinyi @LHanson @Joanne @Utobou @Thanku @AustinClowes @iduaolunwa @kjbradford @marsxr @bngejane and @renskelynde! Curious if you may have input here as well. (Do you have any questions or examples around dairy?)

@nmgraham @NickAzer I just read on the use of caesin. Old science coming back. It seems quite interesting and possibly economic, depending on how you source the milk. Worth a try, I would suggest. I couldn’t find a recent industrial use and see this method was relegated in the 1940s; probably with the rise of fossil fuels.

I really like the meta-packaging, the concept of using milk to package milk, well done @iduaolunwa

**Tangent off-topic: **Project Habakkuk - Wikipedia - building a ship of out of ice? Not really a dairy but a fascinating piece of history and human ingenuity and use of materials.

At The Healing Cuisine, we work with plant-based dairy alternatives, non-soy in particular, for health and environmental reasons. Although it is important to consider the difference in the number of resources required to raise and produce these dairy alternatives as well (nuts, seeds, grains), there is very little if any waste at the end of the milk production. Hemp hearts, cashew, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds milks do not need to be strained. When we make almond, oat, rice and coconut milk alternatives, we strain the fibre and dehydrate it to use as flours in our cakes and breads.

I believe the main issues with plant-based dairy are the use of pesticides and their effects on the microbiome of the soil on the planet. Waste is less of an issue because of the many things you can make with the nutshells, seed or grain husks.

Cashew - Technoserve is using the waste from cashew shells and coffee husks to create

Hemp - And here we are back to one of the most incredible plants on the planet! You can make food, proteins, material for clothes, rope, paper, oil to run vehicles, composite to create plastics and non-dairy milk among a plethora of other culinary uses for hemp.

@Joanne , thanks so much for this input! Identifying different elements of food waste is something we are currently researching, this is the perfect example of what current systems are doing in response to this question. Tagging my teammates ( @Eti @Caroline ) to tap your brain a little more. A question from my end, are there any elements of the alternative-dairy process that is NOT repurposed (aka can you identify any elements of this system that currently have no market)? How about the dairy system?

@Joanne Thanks for sharing these insights! My questions may not be directly related to dairy/alternative dairy, but you are raising fascinating aspects of closing the loop, especially with the hemp example.

I’m curious if you know how does this sort of intervention to tradition waste management works? I’ll try to explain what I mean. We largely know that in food production, there’s loss at every step of the value chain, including the farm level, where we also have valuable agricultural “waste,” that can be utilized as a resource. How can innovators/entrepreneurs source these resources? How does it affect farmers?

@Joanne +1 Thanks for sharing the Technoserve example! Those are great examples of taking an agricultural waste product that was previously causing all sorts of environmental/safety problems and building out the appropriate infrastructure to actually capture value from it! I also love your point on the huge potential for plant-based food systems to use all the byproducts of growing+processing. That’s a huge benefit plant-based food systems have over some conventional systems, IMO. Thanks for all your work!