The dairy industry is a major culprit when it comes to global carbon emissions, emitting nearly as much as the shipping and aviation industries combined. Cutting down or eliminating dairy consumption is one way we can personally spur reductions in dairy emissions, but when things such as ice cream taste as good as they do, it’s pretty difficult to persuade people to stay away.
That’s why vegan bioengineers Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi have dedicated years to developing a milk alternative that not only tastes like the real thing but also has the same molecular composition. It’s simply milk—just without the cows.
Working together with Isha Datar, executive director of a cellular agriculture research institute called New Harvest, the trio created a startup called Perfect Day and developed a process that uses genetically engineered yeast to produce the two main proteins found in cow’s milk: casein and whey. As reported by FreeThink, these proteins can then be separated from the yeast and dried into a powder that’s molecularly identical to whey protein from cows. The powder can then be mixed with fat, water, and other ingredients to make lab-grown vegan milk, cheese, or other products.
In 2020, the FDA recognized Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein as safe to eat, thus opening the doors to new alternatives to classic dairy products. Together with dairy product developer Paul Kollesoff, Perfect Day co-founded The Urgent Company and started developing sustainable food products, with the first being vegan ice-cream.
Their ice cream brand is called Brave Robot, and it offers eight different flavors made from lab-grown vegan milk containing Perfect Day’s whey protein. Currently, Brave Robot is only available at retailers in California, but the company said it will be available at 5,000 locations across the U.S. by April 22.
If they manage to replace the real thing for many consumers, it would be quite a big deal. Perfect Day’s powder is lactose-free, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free, and requires far less land, water, and energy to produce than whey protein from cows.
Image source: Perfect Day