Americans are eating more dairy products than ever before, and their consumption is growing every year. But this love of cheese, yogurt, and ice cream isn't limited to cow's milk products.
Plant-based milk is growing in popularity, as is a new category of dairy products that you may not have heard of. These cruelty-free dairy products aren't made with almonds or soybeans, but rather lab-derived protein. A growing number of startups are using a process called precision fermentation to make milk proteins using yeast or fungi instead of cows.
Once harvested, these lab-grown milk proteins can be transformed into all the dairy products we already know. There are no concerns about growth hormones or antibiotics in the protein.An added bonus is the environmental impact too. Much attention has been paid to the environmental costs of animal husbandry. In fact, reducing red meat is an important way to help everyone reduce their carbon footprint. But reducing dairy consumption is also an easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Perfect Day is at the forefront of this technology. Founded in 2014 by his two vegans who were dissatisfied with traditional dairy alternatives, the company is a leader in cruelty-free dairy products. CEO Ryan Pandia was a fledgling vegetarian when he first began looking into the issue after being overwhelmed by his experiences with vegan cream cheese.
“I had a vegan cream cheese bagel and it was so bad I had to look it up,” he said. what's so hard A lot of dairy alternatives aren't made from food," he recalled.
While Pandya was studying chemistry and bioengineering at the time, he focused on precision fermentation as a solution to the problem. Just like beer is brewed or insulin is made, this process produces high-quality milk protein. The resulting food products have the taste and texture of regular dairy without the need for beef.
Perfect Day is now producing their own lab grown milk protein for major players in the food industry. General Mills launched Perfect Day's Precision Fermented Protein Cream Cheese line (they now use a supplier from Israel). They also work with Mars, Nestlé, Starbucks and Graeter to supply proteins for their products. Bravo Robot, a cruelty-free sustainability company, uses Perfect Day milk protein in their ice cream.
Although Perfect Day is the first company to enter the US market, others are on the way. Change Foods, founded in 2020, also makes milk protein through precision fermentation and plans to supply the ingredient to others and develop its own line of cheeses.
It will be interesting to see if cruelty-free dairy can gain a foothold in the market, especially in terms of cost. Overcoming public distrust of lab-produced food will also be a hurdle. But with the UN warning that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut immediately to avoid catastrophic global warming, this technology certainly seems like the perfect way to make a difference.