Soon, there will be 9 billion humans crawling all over this little planet. All of them will want food every day. In fact they will want food three times today. And we are not going to be able to produce enough food for everyone using current methods. So we need to come up with solutions, and fast.
Scientists are on the case of feeding everyone across the globe. Many have been trying to work out how to make food in a lab, rather than in field like we are now. And they are coming up with some wildly promising ideas. While lab-manufactured food might be treated with suspicion by consumers, with overpopulation and famine looming, we might not get the choice to be such picky eaters.
Many futurists believe that the answer to looming food shortages is to produce food in biotech labs and scale down farming. For example, if scientists can master making milk in the lab, then dairy farms could be scaled down. The land could then be used for other food items that have not yet been conquered by biotech. And that is exactly what is happening.
A start-up company called “Perfect Day” wants to use biotechnology in the lab to make cow’s milk… without using any cows at all. So how do they do it? With natural resources and human ingenuity. Instead of having cows do all the work, they make milk with a process similar to craft brewing. Using yeast and age-old fermentation techniques, Perfect Day can manufacture the very same milk proteins that cows make naturally.
The company are currently conducting trials which use a natural dairy yeast to make milk in a lab. Like cows, the yeast needs to graze to make milk proteins. Instead of grass, they feed their yeast sugar from renewable sources. Then they leave it to ferment. This age-old process (used to brew beer, leaven bread, and make pickles) transforms sugar into real milk proteins. The result, they say, is a perfect taste, texture, and mouthfeel – with none of the cholesterol or lactose found in cow’s milk. It has the vitamins and minerals found in cow’s milk, like calcium and vitamin D, plus other powerhouses like omega-3s. And, thanks to the yeast, the “milk” contains the very same protein found in cow’s milk. Then they add a mix of plant-based sugars, fats, and minerals to make a totally new kind of dairy milk without chemicals, hormones, lactose, or other additives.
The company says, “Animal-free dairy milk is just like cow’s milk because it’s crafted with real milk proteins – casein and whey – but is made without a single cow. Perfect Day is the first of its kind, and delivers the same delicious taste and texture as cow’s milk, but without the harmful side effects or allergens present in dairy milk. Our process is more humane, eco-friendly, and sustainable than industrial dairy production. We were hungry for a solution that empowers people to help make the world a kinder, greener place without giving up the delicious dairy foods they love.”
The company say that their products are cleaner, greener, and kinder than dairy produced by factory farming. “At scale, crafting Perfect Day could use up to 98% less water, 91% less land, 84% less greenhouse gas emissions, and 65% less energy than typical industrial dairy production. We completely control our process from end to end, which ensures our products are free of the food safety and bacterial contamination risks that come with dairy products. They also have a longer shelf life. But because we use real milk proteins to craft our products, we’re able to achieve the same delicious taste, texture, and versatility of cow’s milk, while being nutritionally superior in every way. All of these ingredients are familiar to your body.”
The good news is that the milk won’t need pasteurisation, since it is produced in super-clean lab conditions. But there’s more. By changing the recipe a little, they can create milk from other animals, like goats. And, just like normal cows’ milk from dairy farms, the lab milk can be made into cheese and other products like ice cream. Hopefully… of the chocolate variety.
Just like humans had to domesticate cows (from wild aurochs) before we could farm them, this lab-milk process is possible because humans have developed a dairy yeast that can produce milk proteins. If this milk goes ahead and is accepted by consumers, then we really are in the next age of farming.