• Upcycling: One of Many Approaches Enhancing Sustainability

    By USDEC Staff April 22, 2023

    As a global leader in sustainability and social responsibility, the U.S. dairy community has had a long-standing commitment to healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy communities. This commitment is furthered each and every day through innovative practices, unique capabilities and providing versatile, nutritious products. Earth Day marks a special occasion to honor U.S. Dairy’s contributions to sustainable food systems.

    U.S. Dairy is positioned to help food and beverage manufacturers worldwide capitalize on the growing demand for more nutritious and delicious products made from socially, environmentally and economically responsible sources. 

    One of the many advantages the U.S. dairy community has in providing a sustainable supply of products and ingredients is the integral role of upcycling across the value chain. Upcycling reduces waste and adds value, extending resources in a variety of ways. Dairy farms utilize upcycling to feed dairy cows specially designed diets formulated for optimal nourishment, while repurposing byproducts from other food sources. Dairy processors embrace upcycling to produce nutritious dairy ingredients, ensuring that a variety of functional co-products from milk processing and cheesemaking can take snacks, beverages and so many other foods to new heights. Here are a couple of key upcycling highlights:

    Specially Formulated Cow Diets

    A cow’s four-chambered stomach gives them the ability to process materials that humans can't digest, like unused and upcycled plants from local food processors—ultimately converting these into nutritious milk. Depending on the locally available resources, almost 40% of a dairy cow’s diet can come from byproducts like citrus pulp, almond hulls, and wet distiller’s and brewer’s grains, which provide beneficial nutrients to cows while reducing food waste and methane emissions in landfills.
    High-value and Highly Functional U.S. Dairy Ingredients

    U.S. dairy production harnesses the goodness in every drop of milk through upcycling to deliver high-quality, versatile dairy ingredients such as whey and milk proteins, lactose and permeate.

    A co-product of the cheesemaking process, whey has become recognized for its high nutritional value. Whey and milk proteins' efficient provision of amino acids needed for critical body functions can help support a variety of health and wellness goals.

    Permeate is a high-lactose dairy ingredient produced through the removal of protein and other solids from milk or whey. U.S. whey and milk permeate is highly regarded for its salty flavor enhancement characteristics and cost-saving application potential.
    These value-added U.S. dairy ingredients offer food and beverage manufacturers and foodservice professionals many options that provide the nutrition, flavor and functionality for exciting product innovation possibilities.


    U.S. dairy farmers and processors continue to adopt new practices and technologies as they advance. This allows the U.S. dairy community to produce safe and nutritious products, while using fewer resources to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality, optimize water usage and improve water quality.

    Visit ThinkUSAdairy.org and follow our LinkedIn business page for further information on U.S. dairy ingredients and inspiration for innovation.

    Farming Dairy Ingredients Lactose Whey Cheese Supply Exports Nonfat Dry Milk/Skim Milk Powder Milk Powder Global Milk Protein Whey Protein Sustainability
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