How we turned milk into a better version of itself
How we turned milk into a better version of itself
By Liam Sharon, Head of Food R&D at Remilk
When we reach out for a carton of milk in the dairy isle, we’re actually grabbing one of nature’s greatest wonders. We think of it as that white liquid we drink in our coffee or add to our cereal, but milk is so much more than that. It’s a complex food, containing all the vital nutrients, building blocks, energy, vitamins, and antibodies required to sustain mammalian offspring. It contains a complexity of different structures co-existing in total harmony, creating a unique, stable system. And it’s comprised of three different types of formulations: a colloid (casein micelles are suspended in the liquid serum); an emulsion (fat globules are stabilised in its aqueous phase); and a solution (lactose, minerals, and globular proteins are fully dissolved in it).
Although nearly identical in its structure and ingredients, milk varies dramatically between mammals in its composition. There are various factors that influence and determine each specific milk’s composition. Two major contributors to these differences are mammals’ species and habitat, and there is a variety of additional influential factors such as the season of year, feeding-mother’s health condition, stress, dehydration, and more. The chart below* details the different composition of milk amongst mammals in different parts in the world. Nature is revealed in its full glory through the differences in the composition of this life-sustaining food mothers feed their young: Seals in the Arctic waters feed their pups milk rich in fat and proteins insulating them against the cold, while female camels in the heat of the desert feed their calves milk that is composed mostly of water, ensuring their young bodies are constantly hydrated.
As shown above, human breast milk is characterized by a high percentage of lactose and a low percentage of fat and protein, compared to other mammals. How is it that we drink so much lactose as babies, but so many of us, nearly 70% of humanity, are lactose intolerant? Well, milk is a perfectly balanced food for babies, but as we age our body’s needs change, and require a shift in our nutrition’s composition. As babies our body produces the lactase enzyme, which efficiently breaks down lactose, but as we grow out of our infancy stage, most humans stop producing lactase or produce it in lower quantities.
Human breast milk also contains only a small amount of protein but as we age, proteins - both in structural protein and enzyme forms, become central and essential to our diets. They have the vital role of acting as our body’s building blocks and have the amazing ability of transforming into other nutritional components our body needs such as accessible energy sources (just like sugar) and fats. When we consume high quality protein, it breaks down in our body to form amino acids. There are 21 amino acids of which 9 are classified as essential, which means our body is unable to create them on its own and therefore needs to obtain them through the food we consume. High quality protein contains all 9 amino acids, proportionally balanced. Cow-milk and egg proteins are perfectly balanced, while some plant-based proteins may comprise all essential amino acids but lack the perfect balance between them, which results in less optimal absorption in our bodies.
The proteins in cow-milk are great for our bodies, but the milk we drink contains other components too, such as cholesterol, residues of hormones and antibiotics, and the lactose which most of us can’t easily digest. And cow milk production is a major contributor to global warming, and requires a huge amount of Earth’s precious resources such as land and water. And we haven’t even mentioned the strain on cows, which are being pushed beyond their natural capabilities. Although we think of them as “milk making animals”, just like all other mammals they produce milk for their offspring, so they are repeatedly impregnated to ensure their milk production remains intact.
Still, the reality is that milk and dairy have become central to human diets ever since humans first domesticated animals around 6,000 years ago, and many are unwilling to remove dairy from their diets. Estimates are that by 2050 the global population is expected to reach 9.1 billion. Our current food systems are just not capable of meeting the projected demands of these growing numbers. So what’s the solution? How do we satisfy humanity’s desire for dairy, without compromising on our health, our planet’s future and animal welfare, and ensure a stable supply is available for generations to come? Reinvent milk, from the bottom up!
At our food department at Remilk, we receive Remilk’s precious protein, which is created via precision fermentation and is identical to the perfectly balanced cow-milk protein. We use it to craft dairy that is an improved version of the traditional dairy we all know: we leave out the lactose, and naturally don’t have to deal with the antibiotics and hormones which are often by-products found in cow milk. We then add minerals, natural easily-digested sugars, and premium non-animal fats replacing the fat in traditional dairy — which means our products are also cholesterol-free. The result: a new generation of dairy which is cleaner, healthier, better for our environment and animals, and perfectly tailored for human consumption. We’re not giving up on dairy, we’re creating a version of it that works better with our bodies. Without the cows.
6,000 years after humanity started consuming animal milk, we are ready to launch a new phase in the evolution of food — a new journey towards better, kinder dairy to be enjoyed by us and by generations to come.