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What is 'cow-less dairy?' This high-tech process makes 'milk' in a lab

When scientists want to make dairy sans animals, they use the DNA found in dairy protein and program it into microorganisms.

Cow-free dairy

You have likely heard of oat milk and almond milk, but there are tons of other cow-less dairy products quickly gaining popularity around the country. 

Because of the rise of the technology known as "precise fermentation," new dairy products could soon be available in your neighborhood grocery store.

What is precise fermentation?

So, what precisely is precise fermentation? Basically, it's a process that uses microorganisms like yeast to create the proteins found in animal products, such as whey or casein. This way, we can create the main ingredients found in milk without involving animals.

It's a similar process to how we make beer: Microorganisms like yeast are fermented — fed sugar before naturally secreting a usable product (in this case, alcohol).

When scientists want to make dairy sans animals, they use the DNA found in dairy protein and program it into the microorganisms, largely using gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR

Once these tiny organisms have the new DNA, they're ready to make dairy products, and are thrown in a fermentation tank. Then, these little critters are fed sugar and ferment for a couple weeks, before the protein is collected.

This might sound pretty technical, but the proteins that are made can be processed so that they taste, feel, and smell exactly like cow's milk. 

What companies are leading the charge?

As the market for dairy alternatives skyrockets, tons of companies have begun to use precise fermentation to make animal-free dairy products. 

Here are some of the best:


Remilk is an Israel-based company that does precise fermentation so well that it raised more than $120 million in funding to make cheeses, ice creams, and yogurts. It also recently gained FDA approval to start marketing its products here in the U.S.

The EVERY Company

EVERY is crafting animal-free proteins that are perfect for baking and making your own protein shakes. The goal of this startup, which has already raised almost a quarter of a billion dollars, is to end the factory farming industry, which has seriously contributed to environmental degradation. 

Perfect Day 

While this company originally just developed animal-free ice creams, it has expanded to add a ton of new delicious products in more than 5,000 U.S. stores. Perfect Day also became the first company to market whey protein powder made from precise fermentation. 

Nature's Fynd

This unique company uses a fungus originally found in Yellowstone National Park to create its proteins. Now, Nature's Fynd is using the $80M it has raised to produce animal-free protein in its new Chicago facility.


Formo knows a thing or two about cheeses. The German-based biotechnology company focuses almost exclusively on animal-free cheese, perfecting its flavors and textures. Formo aims to produce guilt-free cheese to customers around the globe.

Change Foods 

Like Formo, Change Foods focuses largely on cheeses. The company's mission is to reduce the environmental impact of making dairy products without taking away from their taste or texture. And according to Change Foods, their cheese uses only 1% of the water needed to create animal-based cheese.

How precise fermentation helps the planet

Besides the fact that the science behind precise fermentation is super cool, the process is incredibly good for the Earth, when compared with traditional dairy.

Dairy cows burp … a lot. And these belches are surprisingly detrimental in the overheating of our planet. 

About a tenth of global planet-warming gases come from cow burps, which contain potent methane gas. So because cow burps are so gnarly for the planet, using animal-free dairy products can make a big difference. 

Beyond the decreases in carbon pollution, using this animal-free technique greatly cuts down on water, energy, and land use. Perfect Day, for example, claims that its products use up to 60% less energy than their farm-based counterparts. 

And while dairy products made with precise fermentation are currently more expensive, recent analyses have found that their costs will plummet in the near future to around 50-80% lower than animal-based foods. 
This means that soon it'll be way cheaper and tastier to help the planet.

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