CHARLEBOIS, when tradition meets science: When lab-grown dairy is a reality

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The term “lab-grown” often has a negative connotation for most consumers, and it’s not hard to understand why.

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The landscape is changing.

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Canada has reached a historic moment in the dairy industry, thanks to Health Canada’s recent approval of Remilk’s “lab-grown”BLG protein animal-free. This approval represents an important shift in protein production. Remilk is the first company in Canada to receive regulatory approval for its animal free dairy protein.

This groundbreaking decision not only highlights the evolution of Food Science, but also presents Canada with new opportunities and challenges, some of which are unlikely to be met with enthusiasm.

To better grasp this technology, let’s explain what precision fermentation is, the technology approved by the feds. The key difference between regular dairy products and Remilk’s technology lies in precision fermentation’s use of biotechnology to manipulate microbes to produce substances, such as proteins, that are virtually indistinguishable from those found in traditional dairy. Fermentation improves food’s digestibility and taste, as well as its texture. For example, people with lactose allergies often tolerate yogurt or kefir better than other dairy products. This is because fermentation helps to break down lactose. Lactose intolerant Canadians, who number millions, are always on the lookout for more affordable alternatives.

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It may not sound very appealing, but the process involves working with microbes in order to produce proteins. It isn’t about creating ultra-processed foods — rather, it’s about catering to consumer preferences while working with nature, but at a different level.

It is a new technology which provides a solution for manufacturers who are looking for dietary and nutrition solutions. They often struggle with conventional dairy-based protein. Importantly, consumers won’t be able to discern any difference in taste and texture compared to traditional milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cream cheese, all while benefiting from lactose-free, cholesterol-free, and hormone-free options that offer significant nutritional and environmental advantages. This development is poised to disrupt the dairy industry in multiple ways, as consumers increasingly seek sustainable alternatives that don’t compromise on taste or texture, with animal welfare considerations also playing a significant role.

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Remilk products may not be sold directly in stores, but consumers can expect to find these proteins in other food products that they buy regularly. They will not necessarily be labelled as Remilk. This trend isn’t entirely new, as the rising cost of milk and dairy proteins in Canada has already led manufacturers to substitute real dairy with alternative ingredients. Remilk offers a flexible, alternative option with many benefits, both environmentally and nutritionally.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada may have different views. Supply management is a beloved concept in the Canadian milk industry. With a highly-protected market worth more than $24 billion, quotas support approximately 9,000 farmers. This system will not change anytime soon as any threats or challenges will be addressed quickly.

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The consumer’s concern about switching away from milk is growing. These concerns include environmental issues, product safety, animal welfare and pricing. As Canadians become aware of the declining quality of certain dairy products, especially butter, they face increased prices. At some point, adjustments might be required.

This milestone is a major achievement. It highlights the changing landscape in food production and the increasing demand for sustainable, milk alternatives.

Health Canada’s decision is indeed positive news for consumers and food science, but it poses challenges for the traditional dairy sector. Supply management is, well, focused on precisely that – supply management. Dairy boards prioritize ensuring dairy farmers receive compensation for their work over concerns about declining product demand in Canada, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering that, over time, this approach could lead to a significant reduction in the number of dairy farmers, which may not be a wise strategy.

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‘ Credit:
Original content by Torontosun.com – “CHARLEBOIS : Lab-grown Dairy and When Tradition Collides with Science”

Read the full article here https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/charlebois-lab-grown-dairy-when-tradition-collides-with-science

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