As the name implies, lab milk is a kind of milk made up in a laboratory. Lab milk is laboratory-derived milk that is made without any animal, farmland, or plant.
Lab milk is made up in a laboratory and is concocted with the use of modified yeast.
Though lab milk has no animal involvement, it has a close resemblance with cow milk in that they taste like and have similar nutritional composition.
The dairy proteins necessary for the texture and taste of the lab milk are synthetically formulated in the laboratory, far away from any feedlot or grazing land.
Lab milk is still undergoing development and is expected to be largely produced a few years from now, after its development process.
It is claimed that lab milk is the same in both taste and nutrients as cow’s milk, unlike other types of milk made from plants that taste different and have different nutritional compositions.
The process of producing lab milk is similar to the process of producing lab-grown meat. Lab-grown meat is meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells instead of slaughtering living animals.
Lab-grown meat makes use of tissue from already harvested animal cells. But in this case, animal cells are not used in producing lab milk; instead, it is produced from modified yeast.
How is Lab milk formulated?
The production process of lab milk is a combination of science and fermentation.
The replication of milk’s proteins is essential in the lab milk production process. The process of replicating milk’s protein relies solely on fermentation.
Some companies that pioneer lab milk production (e.g., Perfect Day) use Trichoderma reesei yeast to convert plant sugar into two main milk proteins (whey and casein).
The yeast is modified genetically, and then milk protein genes are inserted into its DNA. Though bacteria, fungi, or other microflora may be used instead of yeast.
Next is the separation of the protein from the yeast and the remaining sugar. After which, the protein is filtered and dried to powder form.
This protein powder is later mixed with water, minerals, vitamins, and fats from plants and sugars using the same proportion of nutrients present in cow’s milk.
While the yeast is genetically modified, the final product (that is the lab milk) may not be considered genetically modified because of the separation of the protein from the yeast done during filtration.
How does Lab milk compare with other kinds of milk?
Usually, cow milk and other animal-based milk have been plant-based milk such as almond milk, rice milk, sesame milk, coconut milk, soy milk, oak milk, and peanut milk.
The nutrients present in these plant-based milk vary significantly – it varies even more when compared with cow milk.
Cow milk contains more grams of protein, carbs, and fat than unsweetened almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and all other plant-based milk.
The amount of fat and carb present in the different plant-based milk varies. All plant-based milk except soy milk does not contain protein.
On the contrary, lab milk is formulated to be nutritionally identical to cow milk, having high-quality protein, fats, and carbs. As such, it may supply more nutrients than most milk alternatives.
Though specific nutrient information on lab milk is unavailable as the product is still undergoing development.
Benefits of Lab milk
Lab milk has its benefits to human health and even the environment over animal milk and other alternatives (nut and plant-based milk).
The benefits of Lab milk include:
Lactose is a sugar molecule that is made up of two smaller sugars, glucose and galactose.
Lactose is the type of sugar primarily found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose is found mostly in milk from mammals.
The body requires a particular enzyme called lactase to digest lactose, but some people lack this enzyme, and as such, they cannot digest lactose. Such people are referred to as being lactose intolerant.
The excellent news for lactose-intolerant persons and advantage of Lab milk is that lab milk does not use lactose; instead, it uses plant sugars to develop its milk’s carb content.
Therefore, lab milk is suitable for persons with lactose intolerance.
Lab milk is vegan and environmentally friendly.
The dairy industry is a primary source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It emits methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, and these contribute to climate change.
About 65% of livestock emissions are represented in the Green House. Gas emissions from cattle and milk production comprise about 20%.
Also, permanently keeping and rearing dairy animals in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) has raised issues on public health and animal welfare concern.
All these ethical and environmental factors may reduce the consumption of dairy products, as some people would seek alternatives in a bid to reduce or even avoid taking dairy products.
Lab milk is considered vegan and environmentally friendly because it does not involve animals in its production process.
There are lower pollution levels, a far smaller carbon footprint, and no animal welfare concerns in lab milk production compared to the production of dairy.
Lab milk has high nutritional contents as it is formulated to replicate standard cow milk’s nutritional composition. This makes it preferable to other alternatives like a nut and plant-based milk because it supplies more nutrients.
In summary, lab milk is a great alternative for animal-based/dairy milk.
Lab milk proffers a variety of benefits: health, ethical and environmental benefits over standard cow milk. Lab milk is promoted as being lactose-free, vegan, and hormone-free.
Potential drawbacks/downsides of Lab milk
Lab milk is produced and formulated in a way that it replicates the same nutritional components as cow milk, especially its protein.
As such, people who are allergic to cow milk may also not find it comfortable to take Lab milk as they might experience allergic reactions, too, even though Lab milk does not come from a cow.
Also, other ingredients used in lab milk production, such as fats and sugars from plants, may have their various downsides.
They may turn out to be problematic to some persons. This is unknown yet because the product has not been made widely available.
The price of lab milk compared to cow milk and plant-based milk is also not known yet.
The Pros and Cons of Lab milk
It is known that for every advantage, there is a disadvantage.
- Lab Milk replicates the texture and flavor of cow milk compared to other alternative milk (like a nut and plant-based milk)
- Lab Milk is similar to the standard cow milk in nutritional composition
- Lab milk is suitable for people who are lactose intolerant
- Lab Milk is considered to be vegan friendly as the use of animals is eliminated in its production process
- The production process of Lab milk has ethical and environmental benefits over dairy production
- Lab Milk is a better replacement for dairy compared to nut and plant-based milk because it supplies more nutrients.
- Lab milk is not yet widely available as it is still under development.
- The plants’ fats and sugars used in lab milk formulation may have some downsides
- Lab Milk may not be suitable for people who are allergic to standard cow milk, as lab milk is formulated to have a similar nutritional composition as standard cow milk.
- The price of lab milk is still unknown
- The exact nutritional composition of lab milk is still unknown