Cutting out the middle-cow

Does the idea of lab-grown meat weird you out a little? Well, scientists hope the rise in lab-grown dairy could at least help you warm up to the idea. 

Driving the news: A handful of startups have made rapid advancements in developing cow-less dairy products, and they’ve already started appearing on grocery store shelves.

  • California-based Perfect Day’s milk proteins are used to make Modern Kitchen cream cheese and a new Mars chocolate bar.

  • Perfect Day was spun out of the New Harvest research centre led by Torontonian and University of Alberta grad Isha Datar.

Why it’s happening: Cow-less dairy has emerged so quickly, in part, because it uses some of the same, longstanding fermentation processes used to make beer. 

  • Microbes like those found in yeast are genetically programmed to make certain proteins, fed a sugar solution, and sent on their way to start fermenting.

  • “Rather than using 22nd-century technology to produce meat, we’re using 20th-century technology to produce milk protein,” said Perfect Day’s CEO. 

Why it matters: Lab-grown dairy stands to revolutionize an industry that has struggled to retain customers as the avoidance of lactose, growth hormones or antibiotics grows.

Zoom out: The rise in cow-less milk risks leaving behind Canada’s bustling dairy industry, including ~10,000 farms, ~18,000 operators, and making up over $7 billion in annual sales.