Are you vegan, or just opposed to drinking milk that comes from a cow? Are you sick and tired of drinking soy, almond, cashew, and hemp milk? Listen up.
A San Francisco-based biotech startup called Muufri is hard at work taking the scientific essence of dairy milk and making it from scratch, in a lab.
Last month, a study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that instantly concerned anyone worried about climate change. The study concluded that beef cattle production uses 28 more times as much land as other types of livestock, and 11 times as much water as pork or chicken.
While this study differentiates between beef and dairy cattle, it’s important to note that all the world’s cattle in general produce 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses, according to a 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report.
Even if you feel like you couldn’t live without your daily milk mustache, it’s definitely a reason to consider what laboratory-derived dairy milk can do—not only for you, but for our planet.
Here are five important things to know about vegan, cow-free dairy milk.
How it’s Made
According to Muufri, the elements are simple: six key proteins for structure and function are added to eight key fatty acids for flavor and richness. That’s it.
The Motley Fool sheds a little light on the process: apparently, it involves fermentation with specially engineered yeast. Think of it in terms of craft beer, or vegetarian rennet-making for cheese. This is more like craft-milk-making, if you like.
Cows aren’t involved. Ever. Or any other animals.
It’s all done within the confines of a laboratory. Muufri says that in different combinations, those proteins and fatty acids can become cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, buffalo milk—you name it.
That means environmental and ethical dilemmas that stem from traditional dairy milks are no longer a problem. A clear carbon footprint for the production and distribution of this laboratory-created dairy milk has yet to be established, but we’d be shocked it if somehow worked out to be greater than cattle—even cars aren’t as damaging as cattle.
Lactose isn’t a problem.
If you’re among the 65 percent of the global human population that the National Institutes of Health says are at least somewhat lactose intolerant, this lab-grown milk will be great for you. Sure, you can buy Lactaid or buy lactose-free traditional dairy milk, but Muufri says its product will be lactose-free by design. So you can both feel like you’re helping the environment and not have digestive problems at the same time.
Neither is cholesterol, or growth hormones, or antibiotics
Think about making a cake from scratch. You can control exactly what goes into that cake, from what kind of eggs you use to how much sugar is in it. Will you use butter, oil, or a combination of fats? It’s all up to you.
That’s what Muufri’s doing with their milk, and that’s why they’re choosing to leave out the bad (LDL) cholesterol, growth hormones, antibiotics—basically anything that’s not part of what makes milk milk. They’re essentially hoping to make their milk completely beneficial, with no down side to drinking it.
When can I buy some?
Muufri estimates their product will be available on store shelves by 2017. They’re also planning to market home milk-making kits, as well.
With Soylent and similar products piquing interest in how science can change the way we think about feeding ourselves, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to change the dairy world. If you cook or bake, you know that dairy and non-dairy milks behave differently in recipes. If Muufri and similar biotech companies succeed, this could change the world for vegans and non-vegans alike.