Is the world ready for cheese that does not come from animals?

There is no doubt that livestock is one of the activities that generates the most greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere; For this reason, a part of the efforts to combat climate change is the reduction of the consumption of meat and dairy products of animal origin. Thanks to this interest, scientists have managed to develop a cheese without involving animals.

But this is not the first attempt to introduce a product free of this type of exploitation on the market. So far, the attempts have not produced great results, but the introduction of a new method that produces a cheese almost as good as we are used to could change history. Is the world ready to receive it?

Precision fermentation, a new way of producing cheese without animals

Although dairy products extracted from animals are very popular with humans, scientific advances and the interest in respecting nature have motivated new developments to lighten animal exploitation. Today, for example, it is possible to produce cheese without the need to extract cow’s milk through very efficient processes.

A good example is precision fermentation, which enables the production of specific cow’s milk proteins through microorganisms. It consists of inserting a copied section of the animal’s DNA from which the microbes will produce said proteins, thus limiting industrial animal agriculture and its consequences on the environment. This process produces between 85 and 97% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional dairy products.

A type of cheese on a wooden board.

However, most cheese lovers say that products made from raw materials other than those extracted from animals are not comparable in taste or functionality. This type of criticism is expected, so it is common that, before launching a product, market studies are carried out and the opinions of the public are confirmed.

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In the case of non-animal cheese produced from precision fermentation, these problems appear to be solved. For this reason, the researchers decided to investigate people’s opinions to find out if the world was finally ready to receive and consume a new, healthy, environmentally friendly product without animal exploitation.

More than 70% approval in different parts of the world

To find out, the researchers surveyed 5,054 people from Brazil, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States, countries that are very distant and with very different cultures. The questions were aimed at getting your opinion on non-animal dairy products.

Consumer in front of a display case full of different types of cheeses.Consumer in front of a display case full of different types of cheeses.

The results suggest that consumers in different parts of the world may be ready for precision fermented cheese. 79 percent of those surveyed reported being willing to try non-animal cheese produced with microorganisms, while 71 percent would be willing to pay for them.

And among all the dietary preferences considered, flexitarians showed the highest levels of enthusiasm. In addition, the study revealed that people who tend to eat the most cheese today are the most interested in wanting to try cheese without animals.

Interest in cheese without animals involved and without sacrifice of consumers

Consumers understood the benefits these products offer, especially at the taste level. But they also showed a high level of interest in caring for the environment and ethical implications.

“That finding was explosive because that is how we have always understood mission: to initiate change not through consumer sacrifice, but through delicious and satisfying products,” said researcher Oscar Zollman Thomas.

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“Just as we have seen plant-based milk take an increasing share of the milk market in recent years, we now see that consumers are ready for a new type of animal-free dairy cheese product.” said Christopher Bryant of the University of Bath.

This is the first large-scale study on consumer acceptance of non-animal dairy products. The results are excellent indicators of future success, although it will probably take time.

Reference:

Don’t Have a Cow, Man: Consumer Acceptance of Animal-Free Dairy Products in Five Countries. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2021.678491/full

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