While most of our bovine-related energy coverage tends toward the scatological, the world of cow power is not limited to manure. Food and beverage giant Kraft, in a delicious bit publicity move, says it will be converting cheese into energy at two of its dairy plants in New York. The waste-to-energy programs will convert whey, as in Ms. Muffet’s “curds and…”, into bio-methane which will supplant about a third of the plants’ fossil natural gas.
Previously, Kraft had to ship the whey, a byproduct of cheese making, off-site to be used as animal feed or fertilizer. Now, Kraft saves on transport costs by feeding the whey into an anaerobic digester, an on-site waste-treatment system. The result, company execs say, will be enough bio-methane to heat about 2,600 homes.
Kraft isn’t the first to float a cheesy energy idea. The Golden Cheese Co. had been converting leftover whey into ethanol for more than a decade and selling it on the market to generate extra revenue for the California cheese maker. (To no avail, however. The plant shut down in December 2007.)
Across the world, in the land where dairy cows outnumber people, small oil company Gull New Zealand has been blending biofuel made from milk into its gasoline. The ethanol is produced by the Fontera dairy cooperative, which produces over 5 million gallons of milk-based ethanol a year, compared to about 4 billion gallons of the potable cow juice.
It’s not clear how much of the Kraft announcement is just environmental posturing, but reducing the plants’ need for natural gas by a third is no small feat. The plants, which produce Philly cream cheese and Polly-O string cheese, will both be burning the recycled gas by the end of the month, making Kraft’s cheeses a little greener. The good kind of “green,” that is.