When we say that milk is versatile, it is perhaps one of its most interesting characteristics. Whey, a by-product of cheese production, whose raw material is milk, is full of nutritional properties, applications and also history
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Whey protein
Whein protein

When we say that milk is versatile, it is perhaps one of its most interesting characteristics. Whey, a by-product of cheese production, whose raw material is milk, is full of nutritional properties, applications and also history, because it has not always had the market value and utilities that it has today. 

For a long time it was a waste that was difficult to eliminate due to the large quantities produced in cheese factories, but today it is one of the most used elements in the food industry, and it was new technologies that made it possible to separate its main nutrients and convert them into new products such as whey protein concentrates, emulsifiers, stabilizers and other additives. 

The use of whey has a 7,000-year history. It was first used as a medicine for the treatment of infections, wound healing, stomach diseases (Hippocrates 460 BC), and for the preparation of soups and whey butters (17th century). In the modern age it was considered a waste and became a problem for the environment. In the second half of the 20th century, technological advances made it possible to transform this underappreciated product into a valuable raw material.

Companies that process whey produce different types of high value-added ingredients, combining separation, demineralization and drying processes. The main uses for these ingredients are additives in other dairy products such as yogurts and desserts, baked goods, beverages, sausages and other foods, as well as in pharmaceutical and/or higher value-added food products such as lactose and proteins. These companies include Canada’s Agropur, Chile’s Prolesur and Argentina’s Franz and Mafralac, which have a strong presence in our eDairy Market.

Almost 90% of the volume of milk is whey and contains approximately 55% of its nutrients: lactose (45 – 50 g/l), soluble proteins (6 – 8 g/l), lipids (4 – 5 g/l) and mineral salts (4 – 6 g/l). 

After water, whey contains the most lactose, 70% of total solids, a great raw material for the production of high added value products. It is used as an ingredient in infant formulas and as an excipient in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Soluble proteins are the most important nutritional component, with practically 12% of total solids in whey, its chemical, physical and functional properties are perfect for its use in food and pharmacology. The β-lactoglobulin its main component with about 50% and α-lactoalbumin with 20% of the soluble whey proteins; in addition, it contains other proteins such as immunoglobulins, bovine serum albumin and other minor ones such as lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, and glycomacropeptides. 

Whey proteins contain high levels of amino acids such as tryptophan, lysine and sulfur amino acids (cysteine, methionine and glutathione) of very high nutritional quality, highly valued for their composition and digestibility, and this is the reason why they are nutritionally superior to vegetable proteins. 

These proteins were gaining great relevance in the food industry due to their high nutritional value, and interesting applications were found in the pharmaceutical industry, since they could have antibacterial and antiviral effects. 

Its functional properties also make it an attractive food ingredient. Solubility, gelatinization, emulsifying and foaming capacities are the most outstanding. They are egg protein replacers in confectionery and bakery products. 

Whey is used in infant food, for the elderly and in supplements for athletes for its nutritional properties, for the manufacture of fermented and non-fermented beverages, in cereal bars, in meat products such as sausages and in a wide variety of soups and sauces. 

Whey is rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium. It contains B vitamins (thiamine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, nicotinic acid and cobalamin) and ascorbic acid, important components in children’s diets, for their contribution to the development and strengthening of bone structure and tissues.

Whey proteins accounted for 7.2 % (OCLA) of total exports from Argentina in 2021.




Dairy industry, from the dairy farm to the shelves, is huge, involving thousands of families and companies that make a living from it. A lot of knowledge and technology is applied in each food that brings it to our table. 

Dairy products are good for you! 

Have you had your glass of milk today?


Valeria Guzmán Hamann


Data: INTI, OCLA, EDN Files.


United Dairyfarmers of Victoria members have instructed their organisation to lobby the Victorian Government to abandon its plan to cut agricultural staff.

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