Clara Foods and Perfect Day produce proteins found in real milk and eggs. But there are no cows or chickens involved. No plant substitutes either.
Instead, they use microorganisms.
“We have always had this great ambition,” said Arturo Elizondo, co-founder of Clara Foods. “How do you get the whole world off to animal-free protein?” ”
The trick to producing these proteins is precision fermentation.
Microorganisms, including yeasts, bacteria, and fungi, consume things like sugars and starches to thrive and procreate. Their wastes are usually alcohols or acidic acids, this is how we get beer and pickles. This is called fermentation.
Precision fermentation involves taking DNA from certain proteins and placing it in the perforated cell walls of yeasts (Clara Foods) and fungi (Perfect day). They respectively produce egg and milk protein as waste.
Why animal-free protein?
It requires a lot of chickens and cows. Ideally, they would be free to roam and graze on insects, grass and clovers. Instead, they are often packed tightly together and fed a diet of corn and soy. Why is it a problem?
“Despite being hyper efficient with the factory farming model, [animals are] still incredibly inefficient organisms at making protein, ”Elizondo said.
By reducing the massive scale of animal agriculture around the world, we could dramatically reduce our negative impact on the environment.
Perfect Day’s whey protein and casein production generates 85 to 97 percent less greenhouse gases than traditional livestock operations, according to a third party study mandated by the company.
“I love working on things that even if we fail my kids will be happy we tried,” said Tim Geistlinger, Scientific Director of Perfect Day. “Because it makes sense, it’s the right thing to do, it’s about the future and it’s about finding uncompromising solutions for the future.”
“Because it makes sense, it’s the right thing to do …”
Clara Foods is also much more efficient at producing egg white protein than traditional livestock operations, Elizondo said, although the company doesn’t have specific numbers to share. The amount of land animals need, both to live and to grow their food, is enormous compared to the space and resources required for a precision fermentation laboratory.
“These are small ingredients, but at the end of the day we think they all add up,” Elizondo said.
“It’s going to take a while, but if we can get out of the industrialization of animals and go back to supporting the small farmers who inherently care about the treatment of these animals, and bring more value to these high-end products created by these animals. local farmers, this will create a better kind of dynamic homeostasis, which will be better for everyone, ”Geistlinger said.
You won’t find a pack of Clara Foods egg whites or cartons of Perfect Day milk on grocery store shelves. Instead, Bay Area businesses supply their products to other businesses.
Clara Foods partners with companies like Ingredion, a distributor that supplies ingredients to bulk food and beverage manufacturers. Elizondo said the company would also like to partner with big producers like Nestle and Kellogg.
After a very limited trial of its own line of ice cream, Perfect Day’s dairy protein is now a key ingredient in creamy pints of animal-free ice cream from brands such as Brave robot and Graeter.
“Consumers are so hyper aware now,” Elizondo said. “They want cleaner labels, simpler labels. And frankly, companies like us wouldn’t even stand a chance if people weren’t actively demanding better products, better ingredients, and cleaner labels from companies.
He pointed to Hellmann’s (aka Best Foods in the western US) mayonnaise, which has now “made with 100% cage-free eggs” printed on jars of its flagship product, right next to its own options at herbal on the grocery store. store shelves. People are more aware of what they eat, a trend that has developed over the past decade, he said.
Grocery stores and restaurants are increasingly offering plant-based alternatives to conventional foods made with meat, milk or eggs. In 2019, meat substitutes, such as plant-based ‘chicken’ nuggets and ‘burger’ patties, were a big hit. $ 11 billion industry. Even fast food chains, like Burger King and Starbucks, are jumping on the trend.
In some cafes, ordering a cold brew with cow’s milk might make you look sidelined. But sometimes oatmeal, almond or soy milks just don’t live up to the taste and function of conventional dairy products.
“Dairy products go into making whipped cream, cappuccinos, cheese, ice cream, baked goods, it goes into a lot of things,” he said. “And it has a key role in providing not only nutrition but functionality, and making each of those things special for dairy.”
I have tried a lot of different oatmeal and nut milks, which work for morning cups of coffee or lunchtime smoothies. I have also tried many brands of vegan ice cream, all of which have a distinct texture and taste that is noticeably different from standard milk-based ice cream. Many are good, but they don’t enough hit that creamy note I’m looking for after dinner.
Perfect Day’s Brave Robot dairy protein ice cream is another story. i tried a pack of four flavors: raspberry white truffle, blueberry tart, pecan nut butter and vanilla. Perfect Day’s whey protein, proudly advertised on the side of every pint, gets it out of the park.
It was like eating one of my favorite cow’s milk ice cream: rich, creamy and smooth. And I guess that’s what I should have expected, considering the animal-free dairy protein in them is the same as in cows.
Egg whites, on the other hand, are used in all kinds of products. In winemaking, they can accelerate the settling of natural sediments, which are then removed to make the wines clearer. They can be foamed to make foods lighter and softer, such as some breads or meringues. Some protein powder supplements are made with egg whites.
“There are over 200 proteins in the egg,” Elizondo said. “If you’ve eaten an egg this week, you’ve eaten over 200 different proteins, and they all do different things. They all have their own unique amino acid profile, their own unique foaming, gelling and binding properties, their own unique tastes.
How do you convince people to eat less animal products? Make it easy for them.
If you change the flavor or texture of a classic Snickers bar or a cup of Reese’s peanut butter, people won’t be happy. But replace the egg whites in Snickers or the milk in both with exact, animal-free replicas – it’s an easy sell for just about anyone.