In the works: lab-made vegan milk

milk splash
CC BY 2.0 Andrew Magill

The $300,000 lab-grown hamburger may have captured our attention, but ground beef isn’t the only animal product scientists are working to re-create.

Three vegan bioengineers have started Muufri, a company that’s working to create cow-free milk in the lab. The founders say that test-tube milk will avoid many of the problems associated with factory farming, including animal cruelty and the production of greenhouse gas. Modern Farmer reports that the company had received backing from tech incubators SynBio Axlr8r and Horizon Ventures.

From coconut to soy to almond, vegan milk alternatives already have a major market. However, Muufri’s goal is to create a milk that tastes the same as cow’s milk, and is nutritionally equivalent. It’s made from chemically synthesized cow DNA and cultures grown from yeast. According to the company’s website, the product will be lactose-free, in addition to avoiding any pesticide or hormone residues.

The product is intended to be an alternative to industrial dairy, not necessarily your local organic small farm. At a panel on the future of meat earlier this year, Muufri’s Isha Datar said she “embraces a portfolio approach,” where lab-grown products represent another option for ethically-minded consumers.

But like the in-vitro burger, there’s a lot of work to be done before Muufri’s milk will be on the market. Datar said that when it comes to these kinds of lab-cultured foods, there’s a lot of media attention but relatively few scientists developing the products.

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