Ever wondered how whey protein comes about? Well, we were rather curious ourselves!

So, recently a few of our staff members took a road trip to the Fonterra Dairy site at Wynyard, Tasmania to find out a bit more about the process our whey goes through. Starting with the happy cows roaming in the field to the whey powder being delivered at Bulk HQ ready for blending in our whey proteins.

Fonterra Australia and NZ

While Fonterra is a New Zealand company, it has quite a few plants here in Australia including Cobden, Stanhope, Wagga, Spreyton and Wynyard. And, believe it or not it’s their Wynyard plant in Tasmania which is the only place Fonterra makes whey protein in Australia!

Dairy is an interesting game and is one industry which works better on larger scales. Due to this, companies like Fonterra tend to make milk powders at certain plants and cheese at others, rather than each plant doing a little of everything.

“As luck would have it, Bulk Nutrients is based in Tasmania and so is Fonterra Australia’s only whey protein processing plant! It’s a match made in heaven.”

Fonterra’s whey processing plant sits alongside a major cheese plant. Cheese and whey work very well in tandem, in fact you need cheese to make whey!

Happy Tassie cows produce the milk that becomes the whey we use in our proteins.

So, how is whey made?

Do you remember the nursery rhyme with Little Miss Muffet? And how she was eating her curds and whey?

Well, these are the two main components (well, proteins) that make up dairy milk!

If we think about it, the curds and whey Miss Muffet was eating could well have been in the form of traditional cottage cheese! As curds are the lumps in cottage cheese and the watery part is the whey. There’s a little fun fact for you!

When making cheese the whey is separated from the milk, with the milk then made into cheese. The whey component as we now know contains a huge amount of protein, but before it was considered a waste product! All those gains a waste product? We know, crazy!

However, liquid whey is only about 1% protein, meaning there’s a significant amount of refinement required before we can get whey protein powder. In fact, it goes through a series of filters where it’s liquid concentration is reduced. At Fonterra, they proudly use the Ultra Filtration method, which means the amino acid profile and whey fractions are kept intact for ultimate nutritional benefits.  The final process is a series of vibrators and dryers before the whey reaches its final form.

At Fonterra, this process has been optimised over decades with the current processes deemed as cutting edge. Through every step and procedure, highly accurate equipment is used to monitor parameters like protein, fat, lactose and liquid levels, it’s just amazing!

The filtration system at Fonterra.

A huge operation

But the Wynyard Fonterra site is more than a whey processing plant, it’s also a cheese making facility and a milk receival facility. There’s also the small matter of liquid removal, as for every 400kg of whey that is made, it started with 50,000 litres of liquid. Fonterra has state of the art liquid treatment facilities and the end result is water, which can be reused in many forms.

One of the fascinating parts of this 24/7 operation was seeing trucks coming in, decanting their milk and then departing from subsequent runs. Millions of litres per day means these trucks run on a constant basis collecting milk from Tasmanian farms. The intake of milk required by Fonterra comes from farms within 10km, as well as some farms up to 200km away. The farms vary in size, but have an average of 380 cows, with the largest being just under 2000 cows.

Supporting local Tasmanian families

While Fonterra has around 100 staff on the Wynyard site, the knock on effect their employment has is massive, with families across Tasmania relying on the processing facility. We understand this very well at Bulk Nutrients, as we too love keeping our business locally owned, made and operated.

We’re proud to be able to source some of our whey protein from the local plant at Wynyard, especially knowing how carefully the protein is prepared and that we are supporting more Tasmanian’s by buying it!

Our staff thoroughly enjoyed touring the Wynyard Whey Plant and learning whey more about the protein we receive and use in our products!

Thanks to the team at Wynyard Fonterra for showing us through the site!

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Ben Crowley

Ben Crowley

Bulk Nutrients was founded by Ben Crowley almost 9 years ago. He provides insights into training, diet and the state of the industry.