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COINGA and IRTA are working to give value to the whey from Maó cheese

Whey is a by-product of the manufacture of cheese that has a high nutritional value and could be incorporated into new products

Making money from the by-products of cheese-making improves the profitability of the industry

The Menorcan co-operative COINGA, with scientific back-up from the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology- IRTA, is carrying out a research project, whose aim is to extract value from the whey by -product of cheese production. Whey is the liquid which is produced when milk coagulates in the cheese-making process.

The aim of the project is to test a concept; to validate a new drying technology (Pulse Combustion Drying) which can deliver significant energy savings and which if applied could improve the quality of powdered whey.

COINGA as the largest producer of the Protected Designation of Origin Mahón-Menorca cheese, is looking into how it can extract value from this by-product of cheese production, rich in protein and of a high nutritional value (whey proteins used in sports drinks and infant formulas). This by-product is currently used in animal feed. The project is attempting to add value to this by-product by directing it towards human consumption.

The project includes examining whether, applying this new technology, the installation of a whey concentration and power-drying line could be economically viable. Using this by-product for human nutrition is a key point in the improvement of the value chain and the profitability of cheese-making, and as such the capacity of the co-operative to increase the price it pays for milk to its dairy farmers.

The project has a budget of €78,400 and is expected to last a year, ending in September 2018. The COINGA co-operative has availed of assistance for Catalan SMEs from the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (Government of the Balearic Islands). At the end of the research project, COINGA will have the information it needs to assess the installation of a whey drying line.

The manufacture of cheese is a typical Menorcan business, benefiting from the island’s environmental conditions, to obtain a special cow’s milk used in making Maó cheese. At the same time, the management of the meadow pastures needed to produce that milk has a great landscape value and they are a key element in maintaining the status of Biosphere Reserve.    

For these reasons, COINGA is pursuing innovation as a path to increase the overall value of the island’s milk and, at the same time, maintain the balance between human activity and our landscape heritage.