A vegan-friendly milk that contains real dairy?
Newly launched Bored Cow animal-free milk makes it possible. What seems like an obvious contradiction is actually an incredible feat of modern-day food tech.
Is the hegemony of soy, oat, and almond milk under threat? Read on to find out.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any products or companies mentioned. This article is solely intended to inform about the latest vegan innovations.
- What is Bored Cow Animal-Free Milk?
- The Secret to Animal-Free Dairy: Precision Fermentation
- Creating Bored Cow’s Flora Based Milk
- Is Bored Cow Better for the Environment?
- Is Bored Cow Vegan?
- Where Can You Buy Bored Cow Milk?
What is Bored Cow Animal-Free Milk?
Earlier this year in June, New York-based food tech company Tomorrow Farms launched an exciting new product that promises to cause a stir in the alternative milk market.
The startup’s new brand Bored Cow brings animal-free, vegan-friendly dairy milk into American households. 100% real dairy, but no cows required.
As of yet, Bored Cow offers vegan dairy milk in 3 flavors: vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. According to Tomorrow Farms, a plain flavor is currently in the making.
All flavors contain real whey protein, but are plant-based and free of lactose, nuts, gluten, and soy. What’s more, the products are also devoid of antibiotics and hormones, both unwanted components commonly found in conventional cow’s milk. Similarly to other vegan dairy alternatives, Bored Cow milks are shelf-stable.
But what’s the secret behind producing real dairy milk without a single cow?
The Secret to Animal-Free Dairy: Precision Fermentation
Yeast plus sugar equals dairy?
What sounds too good to be true actually attests the advances of modern food technology.
At the core of Bored Cow’s dairy milk is animal-free whey protein from Perfect Day, a Californian food tech startup specialized in the sophisticated process of precision fermentation.
Don’t worry, it’s simpler than it sounds.
Precision fermentation can make 100% animal-free dairy proteins by programming microflora to produce organic protein molecules. By giving tiny microorganisms, such as yeast , precise DNA sequences that serve as a blueprint for whey protein, they can convert sugar into dairy proteins via fermentation.
The best part: No cows are harmed in the process of precision fermentation, thanks to the Bovine Genome Project.
The Project successfully decoded a cow’s DNA in 2009, using genome sequencing to translate the animal’s genetic code into the language of science. Genome sequencing is an established laboratory method commonly used across various industries to produce medicines, food, beauty products, and even fashion.
Perfect Day “copies” this genetic information about specific dairy proteins provided by the Bovine Genome Project and “pastes” it into the genetic material of yeast. The microflora then adopts the information into its own genome and uses it as an instruction manual to produce dairy proteins.
Creating Bored Cow’s Flora-Based Milk
Building on Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein, Bored Cow uses plant-based ingredients to create flora-based milk that replicates the characteristics, consistency, and taste of real cow’s milk.
Even Bored Cow’ nutritional profile is very similar to the real thing.
For starters, one cup of Bored Cow contains 8g of protein (just like regular milk). Unlike other popular plant-based milks, Bored Cow contains sufficient amounts of all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein.
Additionally, the animal-free dairy milk is fortified with important minerals and vitamins traditionally found in cow’s milk. These include, calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
Is Bored Cow Animal-Free Milk Better for the Environment?
Although Bored Cow milk contains real dairy, it shares the environmental benefits of popular plant-based milk alternatives.
Revolving around large-scale animal agriculture, conventional dairy farming has disastrous effects on planetary health.
For one, keeping dairy cows requires a hefty amount of natural resources (particularly water, grains, and land). Additionally, the mismanagement of manure produced by dairy cows heavily burdens the environment. Dire side effects include the acidification and eutrophication of soil.
Cows are also major emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that can trap up to 100x more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
The production of flora-based milk via precision fermentation eliminates the cow from the process. Therefore, the environmental footprint of Bored Cow should be relatively similar to that of soy or oat milk (it may even be more eco-friendly than almond milk, considering almond farming’s heavy water usage).
Is Bored Cow Vegan?
Bored Cow milk lends itself to confusion. Does it really classify as vegan?
The milk cartons don’t flaunt a prominent vegan label like other plant-based milks, after all.
Technically, the argument could be made that Bored Cow milk is not 100% animal-free in its origins. Bored Cow products did involve an animal in its early scientific inception. The original DNA code used in precision fermentation came from a real cow, which supplied researchers with cell samples.
Still, the cow in question is very, very far removed from the product itself. The current Bored Cow products themselves don’t rely of any animal-based samples whatsoever. Just on a digital database of milk proteins.
Nevertheless, when looking at Bored Cow products themselves, the answer is clear:
Yes, Bored Cow’s dairy products are vegan-friendly since they do not involve any animal exploitation in their production process.
However, vegans strictly adhering to a whole-foods plant-based diet may still choose not to consume Bored Cow because of the milk’s processed nature.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference.
Where Can You Buy Bored Cow Milk?
Currently, Bored Cow’s product line is only sold via its own online store.
Ben Berman, CEO of Tomorrow Farms, anticipates that the animal-free milk will hit the shelves of select American stores in the fall of 2022.
While flora-based milks are not widely available yet (certainly not internationally), chances are that vegan-friendly precision fermentation products will seriously challenge the popularity of soy, oat, and almond milk in the years to come.
What a great time to be vegan.
What is precision fermentation?
Precision fermentation is the process of programming microbial hosts, such as yeast or fungi, to produce specific organic molecules. It’s a form of cellular agriculture that decouples the production of animal proteins from animal agriculture.
Is precision fermentation vegan?
Proteins produced via precision fermentation are considered vegan, since they don’t involve or derive anything from animals. This biotechnological process offers a solution to planetary and ethical concerns around animal agriculture.
What is flora-based milk?
Flora-based milk derives its dairy protein from precision fermentation, not dairy farming. It relies on microorganisms, such as yeast, to produce milk proteins. Cows are completely eliminated from the milk production process.
How is lab-grown dairy made?
By programming microflora to ferment sugar to make milk proteins, real dairy can be made artificially without the need for cows. The final product is chemically identical to its animal-based counterpart.
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