New Harvest: ‘You’d be better off driving a hummer to a vegan dinner than taking your Tesla to a BBQ'

Perfect Day talks animal-free milk at reThink Food 2016: ‘One of the huge questions is what do we call it?’

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

Unlike nut- or legume-based ‘milk’ brands, Berkeley-based Perfect Day is actually making the real thing, minus the cows. But how is it doing it, and will consumers buy into its product as a greener, more ethical alternative to dairy-milk or dismiss it as ‘Frankenmilk? Elaine Watson caught up with co-founder Ryan Pandya at the reThink Food conference in Napa Valley to find out.

Perfect Day is taking food grade yeast, and adding DNA sequences (which can be 3D printed using synthetic biology techniques) which effectively instruct the yeast to produce the proteins found in milk – predominantly casein, but also lactoglobulin and lactoalbumin. It then puts them into big fermentation tanks with sugar (from corn) and other nutrients to feed on and lets them get to work. Finally, the proteins are harvested via a mechanical process and added to water, minerals, and plant-based fats and sugars to make ‘milk.’

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Unlike almond milk or soy milk, say, Perfect Day’s product has the taste, functionality and nutrition of dairy milk – which means it can be used to make everything from cheese to ice cream with the same organoleptic properties as the animal-based versions, says Pandya, who is gearing up for a commercial launch by the end of 2017 (read more HERE​ and HERE​).

We’re in talks with three of the largest dairy companies on the planet

If this all sounds a bit well, ‘unnatural,’ you can have a conversation about how natural, humane, or sustainable it is to raise millions of cows as milk machines, said Pandya. But he’s not on a collision course with the dairy industry. Far from it: “We’re actually in talks with three of the largest dairy companies on the planet about potential collaborations.​”

He added: “I don’t see a world without dairy farmers.”

perfect-day-portrait

One of the huge questions is what do we call it?

As for the consumer, feedback has been extremely positive, said Pandya, who noted that he was geared up for the ‘frankenmilk’ questions, but has not faced a torrent of them.

“I think the conversation around GMOs has to get a lot more nuanced. We’re not making a better tomato or a cuter dog​. We’re just offering another option that we think is cleaner, greener and kinder ​[than industrial milk production].”

When it comes to regulatory issues, discussions are ongoing, he said, noting that as milk proteins - and fermentation - are well understood, the FDA is more focused on how the product might be labeled such that consumers are not misled than on safety, although everything will be looked at.

“One of the huge questions is what do we call it?”

New Harvest: ‘Cellular agriculture is the next revolution in agriculture'

Speaking during the same session at reThink Food​, which brought together leading names at the intersection of technology, behavior, design and food, Gilonne d’Origny at New Harvest​ – a research institute specializing in cellular agriculture – said that there are currently 60bn land animals that feed 7bn people.

If current trends continue, 100bn animals will be needed to meet the needs of the near-10bn people that might be sharing the planet by 2050, which clearly isn’t sustainable given that agricultural land is a finite resource, she told delegates.

While a lot of attention has been paid to cars in the debate over greenhouse gas emissions, she said, the meat and dairy industry were far more significant contributors: “You’d be better off driving a hummer to a vegan dinner than your Tesla to a barbecue.”

'You’d be better off driving a hummer to a vegan dinner than taking your Tesla to a BBQ...' New Harvest

Meat made from cell cultures and grown in fermentation tanks is greener, cleaner, and more ethical than industrialized meat production, she argued. “What’s exciting about meat or milk made using cellular agriculture is that it’s not an ‘alternative,’ it’s the real deal, so the culinary opportunities are endless​.

“We think that cellular agriculture is the next revolution in agriculture.”

rethinkfood-logo

Read more about Perfect Day​ (animal free milk), Geltor​ (animal-free gelatin), and SuperMeat​ (cultured meat).

Read more about the reThink Food​ conference - hosted by the MIT Media Lab and the Culinary Institute of America - Nov 4-6. 

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