Our dairy farmers’ lives are tied to this land. The fields their cows graze, the water they drink and the air they breathe all contribute to the rich, wholesome milk they provide. And more than just the cows, our farmer-owners live, work and send their kids to school here too. So at Hiland Dairy, we pride ourselves on being local – not only because it means that the milk we provide is as fresh as it can possibly be, but also because it means we’re personally invested in the communities we serve.
Because of this, we take the notion of sustainability very seriously. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for our customers and neighbors. And, frankly, it’s good for business. You could say it’s a win-win-win.
The Wichita Whey Recovery & Wastewater Recycling Project
Turning milk into cottage cheese takes a lot of water and electricity, and it produces a lot of acid whey wastewater. Because of its acidic nature, this liquid byproduct cannot simply be dumped into the environment.
Hiland Dairy’s plant in Wichita, Kansas, produces 250,000 pounds of cottage cheese every week, which produces a lot of acid whey that, prior to the wastewater recovery project, had to be disposed of via the sewer system. Not only was this a burden on the municipality’s utility infrastructure, it was also expensive.
A Better Whey
Hiland Dairy knew that it had to figure out a better method of dealing with the Wichita plant’s acid whey. So in 2011, it embarked upon the Wichita Whey Recovery & Wastewater Recycling Project, which had three goals:
- Reduce the overall volume of wastewater
- Reduce the burden on the Wichita wastewater treatment facilities
- Deliver a high-protein feed supplement to its dairy farmers
To help achieve these goals, Hiland Dairy partnered with a local rancher. The ranch would use the whey waste as a naturally protein-rich supplement for the calves they raise to maturity and sell to dairy farms as milking cows.
The project was no small undertaking. After all, the whey waste had to be hauled 15 times a week from the Wichita plant to the ranch operation, nearly 75 miles away. So Hiland Dairy contracted to have the piping and storage facilities built and purchased two tankers to transport the whey wastewater. The dairy did it right, too, insisting from the very beginning that all the piping, valves and other components be constructed of food-grade stainless steel.
The Whey Today
Today, the results of the project speak for themselves. Wastewater volume has been reduced by a staggering 95 percent. The burden on the municipal treatment facilities has been reduced by 70 percent. And the ranchers have a steady source of protein-rich whey to help their calves grow into strong, healthy dairy cows. And the sewer bills? Well, they’ve gone down – way down – by more than 40 percent.
By virtually every metric, the Wichita Whey Recovery & Wastewater Recycling Project has been a rousing success and is well on the way to paying for itself. But more than that, it was simply the right thing to do. And it’s just one more example of how Hiland Dairy is investing in our future by investing in its future.