There’s a new big cheese in town – and it’s completely cow-free.
Yep, it seems synthetic cheese could finally be getting its moment, and we’re not mad about it.
While vegan cheese has been around for a while, it is normally made from soy, nuts, or vegetable oils.
But now it seems a British cheesemaking company called Better Dairy has recreated the delicious substance partly by using the main ingredient from yeast, along with casein.
That’s a protein usually found in dairy milk, but which can be recreated in stainless-steel fermenters – without any animals involved.
These yeast microbes are fed sugar, which converts into milk proteins in a process known as precision fermentation. Better Dairy describes it as “a process similar to brewing beer, but with precisely tweaked yeast that helps create animal-free dairy and no hangover”.
Then it adds plant-based fats, sugar, minerals and salt along with cheese-making techniques to come up with the final product.
The company hopes that this cheese will be much closer to the real thing than the current alternatives which line our supermarkets – and hints on its website that it may expand into other dairy areas, too.
Better Diary isn’t the only one either. The Economist points out that startups like US-based Perfect Day and Israeli Remilk are also creating synthetic dairy products, and Perfect Day will even be be selling its proteins to giants like Nestle and Starbuck.
Oxford University also published new research last week which found cutting out meat would be like taking eight million cars off the road.
Professor Peter Scarborough, who led the research, told the BBC: ″Our results show that if everyone in the UK who is a big meat-eater reduced the amount of meat they ate, it would make a really big difference.”
Oxford University’s Livestock Environment and People Project and Nature Foods found that eating a lot of meat each day works out to around 10.24kg of CO2 per day – while being a vegan means releasing just 2.4kg a day.
However, Scarborough added: “You don’t need to completely eradicate meat from your diet.”
That’s where synthetic dairy might be able to come in, by appealing to people looking to be more eco-friendly.
Those who are lactose intolerant will also appreciate dairy-free cheese, while cutting out the hormones in some dairy products – which have been linked to some adult diseases – is another advantage.
The fermentation tanks using for synthetic dairy are also more flexible than those which process dairy, because they don’t need to be full of antibiotics and can be put up anywhere.
It also uses less water, requires less energy and less land, emits fewer greenhouse gases, too.
But, it not be on the shelves any time soon, with hurdles from regulation potentially slowing down the product, along with the high cost.
According to The Economist, a fermenter which holds 30 litres of milk can cost £150,000 but a cow (which produces 30l in a day) costs £1,600 – a figure which might put consumers off making the moo-ve to synthetic just yet.