Whey leadership: Formula milk companies are shaking up the dairy industry | leben

IIn 1931, Winston Churchill predicted the advent of animal-free foods. Then Churchill, an opposition MP in his wilderness years, wrote an essay imagining life in 50 years. “In the future, of course, industrial food will be used,” he wrote.

Churchill wrote that the synthetic substance “is practically indistinguishable from natural products, and any changes will be so gradual as to avoid observation.” “Microbes, which currently convert air nitrogen into proteins that animals live in, will be enhanced and made to function under controlled conditions just like yeast now.”

Although several decades later than imagined, Churchill’s predictions have been confirmed by the development of lab-grown meat and, more recently, animal-free dairy products.

Formula milk has emerged as a new potential alternative to cow’s milk, which is another alternativeUnlike oat, nut and soy vegan milk It aims to replicate the taste, look and feel of the mouth. Described by experts as the future of milk, it has been touted as an environmentally friendly option that could destabilize the dairy industry – and leave small farmers in a bind.

“Laboratory-grown milk is the next food,” says Dr. Diana Bogiva, of the Institute for Sustainability Policy at Curtin University, citing the growing popularity of dairy alternatives. Compared to dairy production, formula milk is likely to have a lower carbon footprint and cause less pollution, obviously eliminating animal welfare concerns, she says.

The industry is expanding rapidly. In the United States, Perfect Day’s dairy-free dairy proteins are now widely used in products including ice cream, cream cheese, chocolate and protein powders. Another American startup, New Culture, is marketing mozzarella made from industrial milk, while Israel’s Remilk has set up a giant facility in Denmark to produce cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

It will be some time before cow-free milk reaches Australian supermarkets, but startups like All G Foods and CSIRO subsidiary Eden Brew are racing to bring the products to market within the next two years.

Eden’s yeast

Chemically speaking, milk is mostly made up of water – about 87%, to be exact. Milk solids consist of the rest: fats, proteins, sugars – mainly lactose – and minerals. Under Australian law, at least 3.2% of the liquid in whole milk must be fat and another 3% protein.

Most synthetic dairy companies focus on producing milk proteins using a process known as micro-fermentation. It involves the genetic programming of yeast or other microorganisms using synthetic DNA to produce a specific protein. Jim Fader, co-founder of Eden Brew, compares the process to brewing beer.

“We use yeast to make protein to make a drink. They use yeast to make alcohol to make a drink.

There are at least 20 proteins in cow’s milk, about 80% of which are casein proteins found in the curds. The rest are whey proteins, perhaps more popular as an ingredient in a protein shake powder.

The agglomeration of casein, known as micelles, gives milk its characteristic appearance and thermal stability.

“Mysils play an essential role in many parts of milk,” Fader says. “For example, when it binds with calcium, it makes the milk look white. If you want to froth the milk and put it in a cappuccino, the ability of the milk to withstand that heat and enable bubbles to form… also goes back to the milli.”

The formula, says Jim Vader, is “not about trying to get the cows everywhere off dairy” but “to oversupply”. Photo: Reuters

Eden Brew produces six proteins that are more abundant in milk. Once fermented, it will be purified and dried.

The main investor in the company is Norco, a dairy cooperative in New South Wales, which will be responsible for rehydrating and blending the proteins. At this point, other ingredients such as minerals and coconut-based fats will be added. The final product will be lactose-free, with a small amount of table sugar used to approximate the sweetness of cow’s milk.

Vader says the company will launch ice cream — simpler than milk because it can be made with just two proteins — in December next year. Milk will follow, most likely in August 2024.

All G Foods focus their efforts on whey proteins. The company’s plant-based meat products are already presented in commercial burger chains and are sold in some supermarkets.

The company’s chief scientific officer, Jared Raines, says the end goal is to produce fresh yogurt, cheese and milk. But the company’s focus for now is on beta-lactoglobulin, which is the main protein in whey.

“We will apply for regulatory approval with our protein powder,” he says.

Parallels to synthetic fabrics

While the promise of fresh cow-free milk has been widely publicised, the impact of artificial dairy products is likely to be greater than that of products like milk powder, says Milena Bogović, who is completing her PhD at Macquarie University.

“Consumption of fresh milk is declining,” she says, and consumers may be wary of drinking a synthetic version of a natural product. She notes that traditional dairy production is “technically diluted to a great extent, from conception to the birth of calves to the milking process.”

“If formula milk really starts off, the biggest disruption I think would be if it could be crushed and used in the ingredient space…as an additive like milk solids, which are in a lot of processed foods,” Bogovich says. “I don’t think most consumers wonder where the milk solids in Kit Kat come from.”

“If that happens, and perhaps when it does, it will be one of the major disruptions to dairy industries that produce exclusively for export in the form of powdered milk.”

Bogović, who has analyzed global dairy trends as part of her research, is concerned that technological advances may leave farmers behind. Large dairy companies such as Norco and Fonterra, a New Zealand multinational cooperative, have begun to invest in industrial protein production.

“Small operations are already going to struggle in the context of integrating dairy products globally,” she says. “There is more pressure on farmers to innovate as well as to invest in technology to make sure they are on par with the big companies.”

Bogovich sees similarities with the advent of synthetic fabrics. “When synthetic fibers reached the market, it decimated the wool industry in many areas,” she says. “This isn’t the first time farmers have faced the risk of synthetics, but they have adapted and innovated.”


Melissa Cameron, Dairy Australia’s director of human health and nutrition policy, says it’s not yet clear how consumers will respond to a synthetic product. She points to statistics that 58% of Australian households buy only fresh, long-life cow’s milk.

“People don’t give up dairy,” she says. “Marketing proteins and synthetic products on a scale that makes these products widely available to consumers is not far away. As our population grows around the world, synthetic products will provide protein and supplement products. There will be room for everyone.”

The demand for dairy products worldwide grew by 36% between 2007 and 2017 and is expected to continue rising as the world population increases and per capita consumption increases.

The technology being developed by companies like EdenPro, Vader says, “is not about trying to drive cows everywhere from dairy.” Rather, “it’s about increasing the current supply because demand is expected to go up a lot.”

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