There are milk substitutes in abundance – but so far they have not come close to the taste of cow’s milk. A US company wants to change that – with cow’s milk without a cow.
Berkeley dairy products are not as popular with many people as they were ten years ago. The selection of alternatives to cow’s milk * is growing in cafés and the supermarket shelves are also filling up with vegan substitutes for cheese, cream, yoghurt or ice cream. The range of foods on which the substitute products are based is wide: it ranges from oats to almonds, from soy to coconut, from peas to rice. Anyone who has tried it before will notice that there is simply no satisfactory substitute for some cow’s milk products.
This is exactly what bio-engineer Ryan Pandya experienced in 2014. He had just decided to go vegan and one day drove 30 minutes to one of the few bagel shops in Boston that sold vegan cream cheese. “Instead, he came across a runny substitute that had the consistency and taste of melted plastic,” says the website of Pandya’s company Perfect Day. Frustrated by the experience, he started researching why cow’s milk is so much better cream cheese than soy milk, for example. On this mission, Pandya teamed up with Perumal Gandhi, also a bio-engineer and then a frustrated vegan. The result was the company that today wants to sell cow’s milk without milk from cows under the name “Perfect Day”.
Cow’s milk without a cow: DNA makes it possible
But how does it work? Pandya and Gandhi said they wanted to find out what turns milk into milk. The result of their research: Above all, the proteins in milk contribute to the fact that dairy products are so creamy and incomparable. These are mainly caseins and whey proteins. Of course, cow’s milk contains many other components – after all, it is mother’s milk, which is supposed to give the calves the nutrients they need for development – which, according to Perfect Day, are dispensable for the typical milk taste.
Using the DNA from cows, other organisms can also make the proteins. Perfect Day has chosen microflora for this, more precisely mushrooms. It is into these microorganisms that the genetic material is introduced, which enables them to produce the actual proteins – “identical to what cows produce”. The microflora in turn feeds on a plant-based diet, according to Perfect Day. So, in the end, milk comes out, which is based on the DNA of cows and contains the same proteins, but no cow was involved. The laboratory milk is grown in large fermentation tanks.
Environment would benefit from cow’s milk from the laboratory
According to Perfect Day, the animal-product-free milk proteins enjoy “Generally Recognized as Safe” status with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, the product does not contain any lactose, cholesterol, hormones or antibiotics, which can be found in cow’s milk. On its website, the company also emphasizes the environmental and climate benefits that the production method brings with it. “If food manufacturers in the USA (and consequently their customers – everyone who eats dairy products) switched to the animal-product-free whey protein from Perfect Day in the manufacture of their products, we could avoid 246 million tons of CO2 emissions,” the makers are convinced.
This corresponds to the same savings as if 53 million fewer vehicles were on the road each year. Because the company does not want to bring milk and Co. onto the supermarket shelves itself, but rather to team up with manufacturers who should use their protein instead of cow’s milk for the products. Incidentally, the approach of introducing genetic material into other cells so that it can produce proteins in large quantities is not new. For example, genetically engineered human insulin came onto the market in 1982 and the technology is used for medicines and vitamins. (ial) * hna.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.