I have always said, “If you can name the problem you can solve it.” Today when it comes to food production, the problem being named is unsustainable dairy production. The answer? Create a synthetic dairy. California now has Muufri (“Moo-free”) where they are perfecting artificial cow’s milk made from a special variety of yeast that has been genetically engineered to produce milk proteins. In Ireland there is a completely artificial milk being developed. This is a reaction to the sins of environmental damage, greenhouse gases and water pollution that are held up in the headlines as being committed by industrial farming operations.
The “Name’ Game.
It is ironic that in the beverage advertising industry the word of choice is “milk”. Today everything from soybeans, to almonds, to rice and nuts is masquerading as “milk”. In California they’ve gone beyond imitation naming to bioengineering. Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya – two bioengineers in California… are trying to go beyond other milk imitators. Their “out-of-body-udder” aims to match the popularity and health benefits of real milk. This is certainly startling. After daily focus on developing each udder to realize its full potential, we are now faced with milk that can be created in test tubes.
But Will It Taste the Same?
Imitators come and go. Successful imitators make the grade by being identical to or better than the original product. Most fall by the wayside, because of poor taste. Although that sounds more like social commentary, in this case it really does refer to the fact that, so far, the imitators don’t taste like milk. But what if Muufri can get the taste just right? Then the price factor enters the equation. Is the imitator expensive? Cheap?
The “Claim” Game
To win the market, milk imitators must make claims that resonate with milk drinkers. One that is out there is that “Dairy is unsustainable?” It is up to consumers to ask the second question. “Unsustainable compared to what?” If you’re talking plants. Where is the land base that will produce all those crops? The issues are many. Too hot. Too cold. Not enough ground cover. And then, as mentioned previously, what do plant based milks taste like?
Is Everything Unsustainable?
The vegan inventors of synthetic milk — Gandhi and Pandya – market their invention as a solution for “overcrowded dairy barns where cows are fed a constant cocktail of growth hormones and antibiotics and have their tails docked and their horns removed.” It sounds horrible but is it truthful? If we look back at the bioengineers, it is like saying everyone who works in a lab is male, with above average IQ who dresses only in white lab coats. Talk about unsustainable!
The Negative is Heard Louder Than the Number
When the inventors of milk were making their formula, what percentages moved them forward? It is frustrating when small statistics are reported to imply large negative impact. In this case the quote is “According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, dairy production is responsible for 3 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.” Who or what is responsible for the other 97%. Is 3% a huge amount to be attributed to one source?
Who’s Making It? Who’s Faking It?
Fortunately for Gandhi and Pandya, synthesising cow’s milk is a relatively simple process. It’s got less than 20 components, and consists of about 87 percent water. Here is the breakdown, according to John Anderson at Gizmag, “Muufri milk will contain six proteins to help form its structure, and eight different fatty acids to give it its rich flavour.” He outlines the process. “The milk is made using the same process that pharmaceutical companies use to produce insulin. DNA is extracted from dairy cows and certain sequences are inserted into yeast cells. The yeast culture is then grown in industrial-sized petri dishes at just the right temperature and concentrations, and within a few days, the yeast will have produced enough milk for harvesting.”
It’s All Milk and Mirrors!
Real milk is the starting point reports National Geographic “Although the proteins in Muufri milk come from yeast, the fats come from vegetables and are tweaked at the molecular level to mirror the structure and flavour of milk fats,” “Minerals, like calcium and potassium, and sugars are purchased separately and added to the mix. Once the composition is fine-tuned, the ingredients emulse naturally into milk.” This of course means that all of the nutritional values can be tweaked by Gandhi and Pandya, so their artificial milk could potentially be even better for you than regular milk.”
Is this Milk Worth It at Any and All Costs?
Initially Muufri milk will be more expensive to buy than regular milk. This is not an insurmountable problem. Gandhi and Pandya hope to eventually make it cheaper as their production is scaled up. But because it won’t contain bacteria like regular milk does, the shelf-life will be much longer. The pair hopes to have their milk on the market by mid-2015.
The Magic in the Milk Glass
Before ensuring family health, getting to the bottom of the glass can be a double edged sword. Where do you get your information? Is your Doctor providing preventive medicine? Do you believe the press? TV? Your own intuition and feelings? Is there any way to be certain that what you eat and drink is good for you?
With so many sources – good and not so good — you can’t be blamed if you wish there was magic wand that would just fill your table and lunch boxes with the best, safest and healthiest food. However, wishing for a “sure thing” may be what has led to the situation where we now have pretend food. Food that is completely man made … it bypasses all that bad agriculture … drugged animal controversy! So are you ready for “Let’s Pretend It’s Healthier?”
Perfection from the Petri Dish
It seems that we are dissatisfied with the food provided by agriculture … now we seek perfection from the petri dish. We have actually come to the point where we have “Bogus Beef and Imitation Milk”. A quick search tells us that today we have imitation egg mayonnaise, imitation milk and coming soon to a grocery store near you – petri dish meat. Cows are NOT all Bad.
After All, Cows Poo It Forward!
We milk them for all their worth. They poo it forward by returning fertilizer to the land. That fertilizer, unlike most, is not created in a laboratory. Manure does a great job building soil structure. It reduces erosion, nitrate leaching, and the energy needed to make natural gas-based nitrogen. We can do a better job in using this valuable resource.
Nature or Nurture? Cows or Culture?
The one thing that is as sure as death and taxes is our need to consume healthy food and water on a regular basis. Of course, it’s up to each one of us to choose what actually goes into our moths. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but is imitation healthy?
And then there’s “Buy Local!”
Two or three hours north of our farm buying local becomes a question of what can be grown. This summer market garden producers didn’t get a harvest before the “summer” people – their largest consuming demographic – returned to the city. It was an unprofitable season and that, only logically, will have a serious impact on the next season, let alone getting through the winter. And, this is only a very mall example of the actual problems in producing plant based diets.
My questions is, “Are we going to ignore livestock which is renewable?”
Bold statements and brash claims are all well and good. But, at the end of the day, we’ve got to produce food.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Are you ready to skip the cows and go directly to the Lab.? Are you thinking outside the barn? Not only your livelihood is at stake. Your health is at stake. Are you ready to fake it?