Who Needs Cows When You Can Make Milk in a Lab?

Silicon Valley’s got dairy—and it didn’t even need cattle.
(Photo: Tony C. French/Getty Images)
Jul 5, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Contrary to what an army of grinning celebrities has told us over the years, we don’t technically need milk past the age of weaning. (That’s why 60 percent of adults can’t digest it.) Healthy bones are maintained just as well by eating calcium-rich vegetables such as broccoli and kale. Also, as we know by now, milk from cows raised in factory farms equals poor animal welfare, a good dosage of bovine growth hormones, and massive spurts of greenhouse gas emissions.

People still thirsty for the velvety drink can look elsewhere: goats, camels, humans, hemp, and quinoa. For those who don’t want to waste any natural resources at all, there’s also milk concocted entirely in a lab.

Muufri, a San Francisco–based start-up, predicts that most of us will be drinking artificial milk in 100 years. Its scientists have had a head start.

“It hasn’t been done yet because no one has made milk from scratch before,” the team told Mail Online.

The company’s researchers studied the makeup of milk, and they came up with a simple formula to re-create it: six proteins for structure and function and eight fatty acids for flavor and richness, according to Muufri’s website. “In different ratios, these components give us cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or even buffalo milk—all suitable to become countless products, from toppings to cheeses to desserts.”

The group likens the method to making beer or medicine. Because what goes in the milk can be controlled, hard-to-digest lactose and bad cholesterol aren’t in the mix.

Founders Ryan Pandya, Perumal Gandhi, and Isha Datar expect to produce their first batch by next year and have ready-to-drink fake milk on store shelves in three years. They plan to offer consumers do-it-yourself kits containing the necessary ingredients as well.

With each glass, Muufri hopes to benefit milk drinkers, cows, and the planet.

“It’s a win-win situation,” the team told Mail Online, “unless you’re a big dairy executive.”