A farmer has said the industry is right to be cautious about work by an American start-up to replicate the formula of cow’s milk using age-old fermentation techniques.
Perfect Day, a California-based company, is crafting dairy protein in its exact form using biotechnology to extract casein and whey – not formerly ever found or used in alternative milks – through a type of microflora, an encompassing term for tiny organisms which include yeast, bacteria, fungi and others.
The company claims it has found ‘the very same blueprint, in the form of DNA, which cows use every day’.
Whilst it admitted it was not against sustainable dairy farming practices and small family farms, it said it was looking to provide an alternative to ‘unsustainable and unethical’ practices, often found in factory farms.
Cheshire dairy farmer Andy Venables, who is behind Mission 4 Milk, a marketing campaign to communicate the health benefits of milk, said the initiative highlighted the need for the British dairy industry to be proactive and market the nutritional benefits of cow’s milk.
He said: “I would say there is a strong argument that this highlights how much milk is seen as a great and nutritious product if people are trying to recreate it in a test tube.
“We could look at this and think it is far-fetched and never going to happen, but we thought that about milk alternatives 10 years ago. This is feasible and it could become a competitor in the future.”
Although veganism is only still a small percentage of the UK, Mr Venables said he felt the biggest threat to the industry was consumers who were switching to non-dairy for the perceived health benefits, for example people who were not switching to a fully vegan diet but who had maybe moved from semi-skimmed milk to skimmed, and were now drinking soya.
“It really highlights how much we need to be pushing our industry now,” Mr Venables said.
“Cow’s milk is still one of the most natural products you can have and is full of vitamins and minerals, which is why they are investing so much money into this type of research.
“We need to be proactive and make sure consumers are making an informed decision about their milk choices.”