The state of Wisconsin has long been synonymous with all things cheese—but now its largest city will also smell like it.
Milwaukee will be testing a new method for ensuring roadway safety this winter—by coating its streets with cheese brine.
The brine is a liquid by-product of the cheese-making process. And disposing of it is a costly and complex matter for dairy farmers. But once the snows hit, Milwaukee's Department of Public Works will upcycle cast-off cheese brine for use as a de-icer on city streets.
The idea was first tested back in 2009. Rural highway worker, Emil Norby, suggested to his Polk County employer that cheese brine could be used to increase roadway safety during icy conditions. Norby told Modern Farmer, "I knew we had a lot of dairies looking to get rid of this stuff," he said. "I figured why not give it a whirl?"
F&A Dairy provided the brine during that first winter, and as a result, the small county saved $40,000 that it would have spent on regular rock salt, according to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. It turned out to be a win for F&A Dairy as well—the company saved $30,000 in brine disposal and treatment costs.
Regular rock salt may be effective as a de-icing agent, but its impact on the environment is far from positive. 15 million tons of salt are used on roads each year, and it not only corrodes cars, but can pollute groundwater and destroy roadside vegetation.
The hope is that cheese brine will have less of an environmental impact than rock salt, though Atlantic Cities reports it's still too early to tell. But it does already carry some distinct advantages; cheese brine has a lower freezing point than rock salt, and when it's used as a pre-wetting agent, it can prevent salt from bouncing off the roads as it often does when it's driven over.
Responsibly disposing of waste by-products is a concern for any food-related industry, but if Milwaukee's plan is successful, it could help ease at least one of those issues for those who make cheese.
And what about the smell? It's reportedly pungent, but not everyone seems to mind. As Norby says in the above video, in Polk County, "Our roads smell like Wisconsin."
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Original article from TakePart