A new startup, Perfect Day, is creating an animal-free milk that isn’t made from rice, almond, or soy—instead, it’s crafted like a beer and can be made into all the dairy products we know and love, including yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. Coming to terms with lactose intolerance and a deep love of ricotta might become a little bit easier.
Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, the company’s founders, are both self-proclaimed cheese lovers who appreciate a more plant-based diet but lament the lack of delicious vegan cheese. During an interview with Fast Company, Pandya explains how, as a brand-new vegan, he drove 20 minutes to pick up a vegan bagel-and-cream-cheese during a lunch break. “That cream cheese was so bad it like literally inspired this entire company,” he said.
Pandya and Gandhi aren’t just looking for a tasty vegan spread, though—they also want to help the dairy industry become more humane. “We’re not out to burn down the dairy industry or harm family farmers,” Pandya told the Business Journal. “It’s about changing the need and the reliance on industrialized factory farming,” in which the majority of American dairy cows live in confined facilities as opposed to open pasture (for more information on factory farming I encourage you to learn from organizations such as Farm Sanctuary).The two are also committed to minimizing their hoofprint: Working with a team of conservation biologists, they found that compared to industrialized farming, Perfect Day milk uses 91% less land, consumes 65% less energy, emits 84% less greenhouse gases, and consumes 98% less water.
The company brews milk by feeding sugars to a strain of yeast they procured from the US Department of Agriculture that they lovingly refer to as Buttercup. After a few bio-upgrades using cow DNA, Buttercup ferments sugar to produce casein and other real proteins found in milk. Perfect Day then combines this mixture with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, plant fats, and sugars. Ultimately, they claim to have created a milk with all the health and tastiness of cow’s milk but without the cholesterol or lactose.
If you’re thinking about whether or not to file Perfect Day away in your mind next to petri-dish grown meat, Pandya already has a response for you that he recently shared with The Guardian: “Many people initially go ‘oh is this like lab or test-tube milk,’ but that’s wrong. There are no test tubes in our fermentation process; it’s just like brewing craft beer. The meat folks are trying to invent technology that doesn’t exist today, but our milk is made through techniques in use for more than three decades.”
Most of Perfect Day’s $4 million dollar backing comes from Hong Kong-based Horizon Ventures. The startup has completed the prototype and testing phase and is now working toward scaling their product and releasing it in 2017. It’s currently unknown what the first product released will be, but they are looking toward their inaugural product to be one with limited animal and lactose-free alternatives.
What will we call this milk-like wonder? According to Pandya, “We’re not going to call it milk. Because it’s way more than that. We would be selling ourselves short if we just called it milk and we dropped the mic and walked away.” Indeed, Pandya, no matter what you call it we are sure it will be worthy of a mic drop.
Will this imitation milk result in the cheese vegans everywhere have been waiting for? Will it provide greater alternatives to the lactose intolerant individuals who can’t seem to remember to stock Lactaid supplements (me)? Or will it simply be another cheese-adjacent wannabe who can’t measure up? Only time and taste-buds will tell.
Feature Photo Credit: Perfect Day Foods