Artifical milk

July 12th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new could threaten New Zealand’s $17 billion dairy export industry.

Made in the lab from yeast, and due to be on shelves in 2016, it will be a product virtually indistinguishable from cows’ milk.

Because it will have the same proteins, fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals, it will also taste the same, according to Perumal Gandhi, co-founder of Californian research and development company Muufri.

But the milk will be able to be made without the typical cholesterol, allergen lactose and bacteria in cows’ milk, meaning it will be healthier and won’t need to be refrigerated, giving it a much longer shelf-life.

Soon after its introduction, it would become far cheaper than its cow-made rival, Gandhi said.

I don’t think in the short term, people are going to swap to artificial milk. But we should not discount what the future may hold. As we crack more and more DNA and the like, our ability to create things will expand exponentially.

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39 Responses to “Artifical milk”

  1. tom hunter (4,838 comments) says:

    I’ve been expecting this for years now, so not a surprise. I’ve always imagined my herd being replaced by a large set of tanks into which biomass was fed and milk extracted. Science fiction stuff but here we are.

    Of course it simply means that land will find other uses, perhaps better ones.

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  2. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Yeah, same as artificial steak is going to take over the world. And margarine tastes just like butter. If it has no lactose, no bacteria and no cholesterol, it won’t taste the same. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for NZ to get out of the bulk milk/milk fat/protein market and into premium products where the taste matters.

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  3. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    I remember 40 years ago being told “artificial meat is here”!!

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  4. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    I am going to go out on a limb and guess that the gweens will be against this…

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  5. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    Wow, impressive if all those claims are true. Enough to be concerned about, at least for products like baby formula and milk powder, but not to panic of course. Another reason to support diversification of our economy.

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  6. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    No one has said what the raw material is. Cows eat grass and unicellular animals, bacteria and fungi turn it into food in the rumen?

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  7. wikiriwhis business (3,998 comments) says:

    “I don’t think in the short term, people are going to swap to artificial milk”

    If the price is cheaper they’ll swap. If the economy tanks articial foods will skyrocket if they are cheaper.

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  8. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    The Green Party will have a significant dilemma with such a product. On one hand it could reduce cow numbers which they seem to want to do, on the other it could be economically viable which would almost certainly put them off.

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  9. goldnkiwi (1,304 comments) says:

    Plus think of the recent botulism scare with one part of processing a natural milk product, how many things can go wrong with a go to whoa?

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  10. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    This is just another reason why New Zealand HAS to diversify – we cannot rely on an agricultural based economy forever….

    It we have a resource available we need to drill it / extract it / turn it into something else / refine it / blend it / etc.

    And above all else, sell it!

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  11. Chthoniid (2,047 comments) says:

    @hj

    yeast is a single-celled fungus. Any medium with a lot of carbohydrates will be fine. It’s plausible they’ll also need a lot less inputs like water and be more efficient at it than cows.

    We’ve had E. coli bacteria busy making insulin for us for decades.

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  12. notrotsky (84 comments) says:

    Great concept and thinking by the developers but i suggest this is a lot longer away than 2016 as there are very many scientific, regulatory and scaling up problems that will need to be overcome. If it gets close to proof of concept i’d also suspect that Nestle or Fonterra would purchase them lock stock and barrel.

    http://www.muufri.com

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  13. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    New Zealand’s economy was one of the worse performing of the twentieth century. Angus
    Maddison, the great historian of global macroeconomic trends, estimated that in 1913, on
    the eve of World War One, per capita incomes in New Zealand were among the two or three
    highest in the world, rivalling those in the United States and Australia3. A country’s per capita
    income rank 100 years ago is a reasonable predictor of where that country ranks today: for
    the most part, countries that were very rich then still are today4. But New Zealand is one of
    the exceptions. Of the countries that had relatively advanced economies in 1913, only
    Uruguay, Romania, and Argentina experienced greater relative falls than New Zealand.
    Unlike them, New Zealand has been a stable democratic country with a functioning market
    economy and the rule of law over the entire century.

    Even in 1950, New Zealand incomes were still among the very highest in the world. Now
    they are not.

    The decline in New Zealand’s real GDP per capita, relative to other advanced countries, is
    fairly well-recognised.
    http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/research_and_publications/…and…/5200823.pdf
    What’s the plan Stan?

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  14. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    It will never be a runner until these bright buggers figure out how to produce vast masses of all those expensive ingredients for less cost per kg than currently applies from feeding cows on grass.

    And by the way, just what is the point?

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  15. Swifty (26 comments) says:

    Why do they get to call it milk? It clearly is not.

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  16. Johnboy (16,529 comments) says:

    I can see me feeding the amino acids into the new sheep generator!

    Much more gentlemanly than what I feed in now! :)

    Just won’t feel the same though when I watch all the little sprogs gamboling about the paddock somehow! :)

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  17. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    hj

    It would seem our standard of living and relative high incomes all went south with the rise of the Labour movement. That political process of making us all worse off so we vote for more state handouts which make us worse off so we vote for more state handouts.

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  18. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    @hj: NZ’s economy was not one of the worst performing of the 20th century. Think about it this way – where else in the world would you rather have lived? Surely just about every country in the world would be better?

    At the start of the century our economic status was inflated by very high prices for wool. That was a short term high, and yes we’ve never reached that high again. But it wasn’t based on some amazing economy that has deteriorated since, it was based on a couple of agricultural commodities. We’ve never had any significant scale in any manufacturing industries, and we’re reasonably patchy on services exports. We’ve actually done very well to retain any sort of parity at all with European and North American GDP per head. (And I’d argue we’re doing a lot better than Spain, Portugal, Greece etc….are they in your comparison?)

    (fyi: your rba link doesn’t work)

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  19. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    This could indeed be a threat to the dairy industry.
    There may be, however, a way around that. Fonterra could see if they can *buy* the company that is making this stuff. That’s what other big companies have done – buy your competitor, and then his product becomes *your* product.

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  20. nasska (11,491 comments) says:

    All NZ does reasonably well is grow grass. If that grass gets turned into a “milk” product via cow or artificial digester we should still be competitive.

    What the world will be short of as populations increase & become more affluent is protein. If we can produce protein, laboratories & factories can handle the form in which it is presented to the market.

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  21. Bob (497 comments) says:

    It’s too early to panic. There could be problems with the artificial milk. It might not taste as good as natural cows milk. Even if it takes over we might find we have a market for the protein solids which make the milk. So far it sounds easy to produce but will it be? Looking past the founder’s enthusiasm will it be as good as he claims?

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  22. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    So if this is a threat to the dairy industry will the left leaning parties slam it with big import tariffs and high sales taxes to protect our – ahem … Poor struggling dairy industry and farmers ?

    Will we the consumers need to pay more for regular milk because the taxes on imported or artificial milk allow for price hikes ?

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  23. nasska (11,491 comments) says:

    Worth considering how our perception of what we eat can differ from the reality. A few examples:

    1) Crab sticks which are untouched by crabs are extruded seafood (usually unmarketable fish caught as a byproduct) when targeting more desirable species.

    2) Chicken nuggets…..again extruded moulded chicken flesh.

    3) Anyone remember the hue & cry when “TipTop” revealed that they might make their creamier ice cream from mutton fat? From a laboratory POV easy but the idea never flew.

    Only consumer resistance stops us from getting everything we need to survive from a thick drink.

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  24. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Yep. And when the big boys shift to using artificially produced products (e.g. ice cream from pig fat) then it makes room for smaller producers making it the traditional way. Some people don’t care, others would rather eat it old style. I don’t eat a lot of ice cream, and when I do, I like good ice cream. We make it at home sometimes, from real cream. Otherwise it’s Kapiti or TipTop. If TipTop made from pig fat…..then they’d be off that list.

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  25. Griff (7,694 comments) says:

    Value added not commodity is were the profits are

    There will be an ever growing demand for quality red meat and milk products even if the teeming masses are feed with factory produced analogues.

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  26. stephieboy (3,051 comments) says:

    I recall how Margaine was made readily available and the Dairy industry was all doom and gloom.I think artificial milk like marg will be something of a challenge for the industry which they are more than capable of meeting.
    The consumer will just have another choice and am betting people will still largely opt for the real mc coy.!Artificial milk bound to have certain drawbacks including ,already seems , not having the nutritional range and value that animal and human milk offers.

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  27. Johnboy (16,529 comments) says:

    I can remember when you were not allowed to sell a fridge in NZ without a bloody butter conditioner in it! :)

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  28. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    I want a pizza tree and perhaps a tree that grows baked spare ribs in BBQ sauce. A few bushes sprouting crispy bacon would be pretty cool too.

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  29. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    Johnboy

    Yep, that’s the classic way of the socialists. NZ fridge manufactures put a butter conditioner in, overseas fridge manufactures not so much. So we made t they needed a butter conditioner and put large import tariffs on imported fridges. The cost of fridge was high and the government and the manufactures made millions because we all needed a fridge.

    Back circa 2001 F&P lobbied the government to restrict via tariffs access to what it calked ‘dumping of inferior product’ in our market of Chinese washing machines. The Warehouse were selling some import brand for circa $300 and F&P didn’t like that. F&P argued the product was inferior, did an inferior job and even stated the absence of a central agitator as one of the failings of the machine. The next year of course F&P had awesome products and people continued to pay through the nose either in local high prices or artificial high imported product costs.

    Now of course F&P actually market one of their high end products as being gentler on clothes due to no central agitator – but we’re just the pawns in this game. The taxes and tariffs keep us paying more than we should – while the government and their special friends fleece us.

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  30. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    My link is here
    http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/research_and_publications/seminars_and_workshops/Mar2013/5200823.pdf

    I fail to see how increasing the population is a sound strategy so that agglomeration benefits might accrue (one foot for the wharf and one for the boat).

    Alistair Helm Says:
    “Immigration in today’s modern world is not about finding jobs, it is more about creating jobs. It is likely that NZ will benefit from new immigrants and returning kiwi’s who not only bring assets but also networks, capabilities and businesses. These businesses can be managed from NZ as well as they can be from Sydney or London. We do not just rely as a country on manufactured industries.”
    http://unconditional.co.nz/blog/discussion-the-housing-crisis-lies-in-lack-of-supply-not-falling-prices/

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  31. alwyn (424 comments) says:

    The real dilemma for the Greens is going to be the fact that the yeast which is used is going to be genetically modified. As the article says –
    “after inserting the DNA instructions for these foods into the yeast’s genetic code.”

    They are therefore going to have to choose between getting rid of all our cows, and being able to have their idyllic swims in the pristine rivers, but having to allow GE organisms, or keeping the cows and not having any GE material.
    Their little minds will burst, with any luck.

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  32. James Stephenson (2,177 comments) says:

    I remember 40 years ago being told “artificial meat is here”!!

    As your mum put your birthday party cheerios on the table.

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  33. Johnboy (16,529 comments) says:

    Those fuckin butter conditioners always got in the way of stacking more piss in burt! :)

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  34. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    @hj: increasing population is a choice. The problem is that NZ has an arse end of the world economy – we’re good at agriculture and tourism, and at people who want to run some sort of internet business whilst living in a beautiful place. We’re not great at things that require clusters of people, and we’re not great at keeping our most innovative young people. Because who’d want to be in Auckland when you could be in San Francisco, New York or London (or even Sydney or Melbourne).

    In theory increasing our population would allow us to hold onto some of those innovative people. I think in reality we could never increase our population enough to compete with even Sydney, so I’d be looking at other ways to create clusters of innovation that didn’t rely on straight out size – we lose too much in growing to justify the benefits we get.

    A true libertarian / utilitarian would point out that there’s lots of poor people in the world, and that many of those poor people are poor not because they don’t have skills, but because the country they live in is fucked. Allowing them to come to NZ lets them gain a first world income, probably increases NZs GDP per head, and net improves the world. But if you start going down that path, you also start wondering why social welfare ends at the NZ border, and why all NZers on a minimum wage aren’t being taxed to transfer most of their income to the poor in India. So I’ll just ignore that argument entirely on the basis that it’s inconvenient.

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  35. Bob (497 comments) says:

    According to this article artificial milk will not be available for many years yet –

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2678218/Would-YOU-drink-pint-man-cows-milk-Scientists-developing-artificial-beverage-spell-end-dairies.html

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  36. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (888 comments) says:

    “I am sorry for being natural milk”

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  37. Rufus (667 comments) says:

    Oat “milk”. Soy “milk”. Rice “milk.

    Artificial “milk”.

    There will always be a market for the real stuff. If all else fails, the corporate mega-farms can simply fold up shop, pay off their debt and invest in shares or something.

    Those who still want to be farmers – you know, actually care about managing land and stock and producing a fantastic product – can go back to smaller herds and focus on town supply, keep the good stuff in NZ.

    If the dairy industry collapsed, I’ll set up a cow-share club. Hell, I’d milk Daisy herself. I like my milk, and butter, and cheese.

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  38. Viking2 (11,470 comments) says:

    Well Sanitarium have been marketing a soy milk for years and soy is the base for textured vegetable protein (tvp) or in other words artificial meat.

    So nothing new about this, just the method of production.

    TVP was and is used in pies especially under the old regulations that said when tested the filling of a meat pie had to be 4% meat protein. The big issue was always that the only tested for protein as testing for meat protein was incredibly expensive.
    So so long as the protein was 4% the clip board bangers were happy.

    Mind you the total regulation was crap because it applied to meat pies and their was no allowance for varieties like mince and cheese,chicken, mussel, or what ever.
    A pie was described as a pastry case with a filling.

    More stupid regulations from a National govt. of old.

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  39. masterman (19 comments) says:

    If it’s not artificial milk, there will be something else to burst the dairy bubble. Too much reliability on monocultures is the road to disaster. Whoever invests all their money in one investment scheme? yet we have a government that is doing just that

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