Imaginedairy engineers milk without the cow

Cultured meat is meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells, instead of from slaughtered animals. It is a form of cellular agriculture. This is different from meat alternatives made from plants because in cultured meat, original meat cells were used from a real life cow. This has been going on for a decade or so with limited commercial success. Memphis Meat, Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms are a few companies looking to break through. They offer meaty competition to Beyond Meat and the lab-grown plant-based “meat” burgers satisfying vegetarians everywhere.

And if it can be done for meat, entrepreneurs are hoping a cruelty-free dairy product should be done too. Vegans want it, the question is how can they drink a real milk milkshake or cheesecake while preventing animal cruelty? The Israeli start-up Imagindairy is milking new technology to leave the cow out of the dairy equation. The company is creating true milk proteins that are indistinguishable from the real thing via a natural process using fermentation. 

Recreating Casein and Whey

Imagindairy recreates nature-identical, animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce dairy analogs. They have the flavor and texture – and, importantly, the functionality and nutritional value – of their animal-based counterparts. They also are lactose-free, serving consumers with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. At the same time, the company lowers the burden of dairy livestock on the environment.

“The unique protein structure of dairy milk is what provides its characteristic texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Whey is a key source of highly biologically available protein,” says explains Eyal Afergan CEO of Imagindairy. 

Awarding the full, guilt-free dairy experience 

In response to growing awareness of animal welfare and the environmental impact of animal farming, supermarket shelves have become buoyant with alternative plant-based milk and dairy analogs. There has been almond milk, but almond milk is hurting the bees. There is also oat milk, but that’s full of pesticides. And plant-based dairy alternatives fall short of meeting consumers’ taste demands. 

There is no details on “what” the raw materials are for recreating the cow milk in the lab. Because at one point plant-based ingredients will be needed for the process. How will they be sourced? Will they be organic? Will they use wheat or rye or plants grown with pesticides? Questions we will want to know the answers to.

“Our vision was to deliver an animal-free version of the primary dairy proteins — whey and casein — that can allow product makers to match real dairy products in terms of protein concentration, nutrient profile, and the full sensory experiences of the animal-derived versions,” says Afergan. “I look forward to being able to give my kids such treats as a cup of nutritious, tasty milk or creamy yogurt without the hard impact on animals or on the environment they must inherit.”

Imagindairy’s technology can be readily integrated into existing dairy food production facilities. The start-up already raised US$1.5M in seed funding, led by The Kitchen FoodTech hub, with contributions from the Israeli Innovative Authority, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital, and Entrée Capital, and will soon enter its A-round funding series.

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