Cheese Please

By Christina Birchfield | 12/12/2013

Cheese brine makes road salt go farther and diminishes the negative environmental impact, but there is the smell.



It’s cold, icy and snowy in much of the country. Salt has been the mainstay of road de-icing, until now, that is.

Modern Farmer says the by-products of mozzarella and provolone may save the day, at least in Wisconsin.

Cheese brine, the waste product of cheese making, as an adjunct to salt, saves dairies money, saves governments money and reduces environmental degradation.

The first dairy to donate the county its brine saved $30,000—turning a waste disposal problem into a product. And it can save municipalities, too. The first year Polk County used the brine, it saved $40,000 it would have spent on rock salt. Cheese brine could also be offer a greener alternative to salt, which can pollute drinking water and erode soil.

There are two benefits to brine: first, coating the road salt in brine keeps it from bouncing off the roads. Nearly 30 percent of dry salt bounces off the roads. Second, “regular salt brine freezes at six below zero, but cheese brine doesn’t freeze up until 21 below,” Modern Farmer reports.

But then there is the odor, which does have some fans, who ask, “What’s not to like about mozzarella?” Others aren’t so complimentary, comparing it to curdled milk. The odor comes from the little bits of cheese still in the brine that also adds to the brine’s effectiveness.

The use of cheese brine begs other questions. How far away can a load of brine be carried before transportation costs outweigh benefits and savings? Can we all get used to the smell of cheese as part of winter? Will it track into our homes and make them smell like cheese? Are there other brines, say from pickles, or products that might work equally well? As to the last question, Milwaukee has tried some unsuccessful alternatives, such as beet juice.

The Strategic Sustainability Consulting blog recommends consumers try alfalfa meal, which it says is available from nurseries. It also recommends, which sells environmentally-friendly de-icer products including Happy Paws for the pet lovers among us; Salt hurts pet paws, too.

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