As a byproduct of cheese production, whey is not vegan. Whey is obtained during cheese-making by straining off the protein-rich liquid from curdled milk. Food processors typically dehydrate this liquid whey into powder.
Which Foods Contain Whey?
Because it’s a byproduct of making cheese, whey is remarkably inexpensive. In the United States, cheese producers generate half a million tons of the stuff every year. That’s a lot of whey they must get rid of—and when there’s a will there’s a whey!
Since it’s sold so cheaply, processed foods companies put it into a vast assortment of products. Whey shows up in countless brands of cookies, crackers, bread, and other baked goods. Many protein powders and energy bars include whey or proteins extracted from whey. These whey proteins are beta-lactoglobulin, alpha lactalbumin, and serum albumin.
When purchasing any sort of processed food, vegans should check the ingredients for whey. It has a disconcerting ability to show up in products that would otherwise be vegan.
Whey-Free Vegan Protein Powder
Most mass-market protein powders contain whey. But fortunately, vegan protein powders are easy to find. These products typically replace whey with a soy-based protein. Orgain Plant-Based Protein Powder is an excellent vegan choice. This product is mostly organic and quite inexpensive. Earth Chimp Vegan Protein Shake is another highly rated product.