It's now possible to make products identical in taste, texture, and nutrients to traditional dairy from cows, but without any animals, possibly altering the future of the entire dairy industry.
600 million tons of milk are produced annually by 270 million cows, which require huge amounts of water, food, and land to raise, all the while releasing methane - a climate-warming gas that's even worse than CO2 - into the atmosphere. While plant-based milk, cheese, and other dairy products have become more plentiful and offer an alternative to traditional dairy, they often don’t replicate the original taste and texture, as the cheese might not be as melty, or the milk as frothy.
That’s where precise fermentation comes in. Companies have begun making products identical in taste, texture, and nutrients to traditional dairy from cows, but without any animals.
Historically, precise fermentation has been used to make insulin and vitamins, but it is now being used to produce dairy products, too.
Basically, precise fermentation uses microbes to produce milk proteins - casein and whey, primarily - without the cows. Think of how beer is produced: during the fermentation process, yeast (a microorganism) consumes plant sugars, and then secretes alcohol. Precise fermentation works similarly. Dairy protein DNA sequences are encoded onto the microorganisms (like yeast or fungi) and then fermented, producing those milk proteins like whey and casein within about two weeks.
These resulting proteins from the fermentation process are identical to the ones found in cow’s milk, and are used as the base for dairy products. This means they have the same taste, texture, and nutritional content as cow-made dairy and can be melted, whipped, and frothed: all that we expect of milk products, because functionally, it’s the same.
Perfect Day - a dairy company using precise-fermentation techniques - found that their product represents a 99% reduction in water consumption, 97% in carbon emissions, and 60% in energy usage.
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