Monday, August 5, 2019

Cow-free dairy?

Via the New York Times, the latest in dairy science: 
In recent years, the alternatives to conventional cows’ milk have proliferated. The local grocery store is likely to offer any number of plant-based options: milks made from soy, almonds, oats, rice, hemp, coconuts, cashews, pea plants and more. 
But most nondairy milks pale in comparison to cows’ milk. Plant-based milks are made by breaking down plants and reconstituting their proteins in water to resemble the fluid from a lactating bovine. These proteins differ fundamentally from true dairy proteins, and the results — milks, cheeses and yogurts in name only — often fail to measure up in color, taste or texture. Inja Radman, a molecular biologist and a founder of New Culture, a food company, put it plainly. 
“Vegan cheese is just terrible,” she said. “As scientists, we know why it doesn’t work. It doesn’t have the crucial dairy proteins.” 
Dairy tastes like dairy thanks to two key proteins, casein and whey protein. Researchers at several start-up companies, including New Culture, have begun producing these proteins in the lab, with the aim of creating a new grocery store category: cow-free dairy.
Their process is loosely comparable to the way Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat makes meatless burgers. Microbes, such as yeast, are given the genetic instructions to produce the dairy proteins. The microbes are then cultivated en masse, with nutrients added and the temperature adjusted. Eventually the organisms start churning out large quantities of the proteins, and these are isolated and added to various recipes. 
For the Impossible Burger, the essential protein is a molecule called heme, which is abundant in animal muscles and gives the burger its meaty flavor, and even makes it appear to bleed. New Culture is focusing on producing casein, a protein that coagulates to give mozzarella cheese its stretchy texture. 
Ms. Radman said the company had conducted double-blind tests to see if people could tell the difference between the proof-of-concept cheese and store-bought mozzarella. “We’ve had really positive results,” she said...
I think I'll stick with the dairy-full dairy, but who knows? 

7 comments:

  1. Vegans wont eat cheese because it's produced by exploiting dairy cows, just like they wont touch honey because it is the product of bee exploitation, and yet they have no qualms about exploiting a colony of microorganisms to finally eat something tasting like real cheese? Who is protecting the rights of these microbes?!

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    1. I think a vegan (Ive dabbled in it) may reply that the more consciousness the animal has, the more it could maybe sense that it is exploited. I would imagine cows might have a little consciousness (at a very low level), but microbes dont, although there may come a day when genetically engineered microbes might get a hive mind, and attack and eat humans, I suppose.

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    2. If that was the position a vegan took, I would be curious to know where the threshold for "consciousness" is drawn, and how "consciousness" is determined by the vegan. Say there is some objective test that can be performed to determine an organism is conscious enough to not be used for food, who is on the flipside of that logic? Is it morally acceptable to exploit any organism with low or zero consciousness by this scale, or just those determined by some arbitrary moral code? Can we begin eating comatose humans, or severely mentally impaired animals? Could we genetically engineer sheep to lack the neurons beyond those necessary for basic motor functions, so that vegans can finally enjoy some rare lamb medallions?

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  2. "Microbes, such as yeast, are given the genetic instructions to produce the dairy proteins."

    One wonders how the anti-GMO crowd might respond to that.

    Frankenfood anyone?

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  3. I"m all for it if it tastes just a good as the real thing. I already drink stuff that is produced from fermenting with microbes, so I'm not picky.

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  4. I really wish the mainstream media would stop calling heme a protein when discussing the new meatless alternatives.

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  5. CJ, vegan cheeses, if done right, taste very good and are of better quality, texture, and mouthfeel than that of some low- to medium-cost dairy-based cheeses and cheesefoods. However, the best, upper echelon vegan cheese does not come anywhere close to the best dairy-based cheeses, however, the best dairy cheeses can easily run well beyond $20 per pound whereas the best vegan cheeses are usually at or below the $20 per pound mark.

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