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Here is a sentence I never thought that I would type: It looks like lab-grown breastmilk might be a thing.
I first heard of this technology back in December when I interviewed the team behind TurtleTree Labs, a Singaporean startup that uses lactating mammary gland cells to produce milk. They can use the cells of any animal, but the company is starting with human breastmilk because a) it has a higher price point and thus can enter the market more quickly, and b) nobody else is doing it.
Then yesterday I spoke with BIOMILQ, a U.S.-based startup doing basically the same thing. However, while TurtleTree will eventually use its tech to develop a suite of milks, BIOMILQ is focused exclusively on developing human breastmilk.
It’s strange how quickly you get used to an idea. Back when I first heard about TurtleTree, I wrote a Future Food newsletter asking whether or not the world is ready to accept the idea of human breastmilk grown in a lab. (Conclusion: Maybe not yet, but soon.) Now that more companies are entering the space, I’m no longer questioning if people will accept this new technology, but when we’ll be able to put it to the test.
That’s why it’s so exciting to cover this space. Eating a “bleeding” plant-based burger sounds offputting, then Impossible Foods gets on the menu at Burger King. The idea of growing milk from genetically modified microbes starts out sounding far-fetched, then a few months later you’re eating ice cream made by Perfect Day.
Growing breastmilk in a lab might have a slightly longer adjustment period, but given the increasing interest in other cultured foods like meat and dairy, I really think it will become normalized. Provided these companies can actually scale and reach their pricing goals (admittedly, a big “if”), the technology could also have a massive potential in lower-income parts of the world without access to consistent infant nutrition.
Kind of makes you wonder what will become a “thing” next, huh?
Impossible Food claps back against Big Beef ad
If you’re one of those people who only watch the Super Bowl for the ads (guilty), you might have seen a very pointed spot attacking alternative meat. The next day Impossible Foods released a parody of that ad on YouTube.
You can see the full commercials here, but I’ll summarize and say that both featured spelling bees with cute kids having to spell words that are unappetizing ingredients — one found in meat alternatives, the other in beef. P’s and Q’s aside, it’s interesting (though not altogether surprising) these types of attack ads are happening at all. We’re used to seeing them around politicians, but meat? Not so much.
Clearly Big Beef and its friends are nervous about the growth of meat alternatives and are trying to throw money at the problem. Meat lobbying groups are already fighting plant-based meat in the courtroom over labeling restrictions, with Tofurky stepping up as leader of the resistance. It seems like Impossible is ready to do the same in the advertising field.
But fighting groups with funds hefty enough to pay for an ad during the Super Bowl ad will be a tough battle — alternative meat companies better come prepared for the fight.
Protein ’round the web
- Canadian startup Noblegen has unveiled its first product: a plant-based “egg” that can work in scrambles as well as in baking (h/t FoodNavigator).
- Purple Carrot, the plant-based meal kit company, is now including products from meatless meat brands Lightlife and Field Roast in its pre-prepped kits.
- Ripple is launching a line of ice creams made with its signature pea protein-derived Ripptein (via Vegnews).
- Israeli cultured meat company Aleph Farms is launching an educational center to educate consumers on cell-based meat.
Not sure what to get your S.O. for Valentine’s? How about some plant-based bacon? Prime Roots will be doing a one-day presale of its fungi-based “bacon” on February 14 — you can pick some up here while supplies last.