The intrinsic factors to guarantee a sustainable food system are fertile land, water, fertilizers, a stable climate and energy.
It is widely understood that dairy farmers have long contributed to a sustainable food system. They support practices that make economic sense, help the environment and are socially responsible to our communities and our world.
Also leading the charge are cutting-edge companies that are making use of the many mighty components of milk to contribute to a more sustainable food system, planet and future.
A shared impact
Berkeley, Calif.-based Perfect Day is a consumer biology company that has developed processes of creating dairy proteins, starting with whey, by fermentation of microflora – specifically from fungi in fermentation tanks, instead of extraction from bovine milk. The company believes that by changing the process, Perfect Day can create a kinder, greener supply chain.
Through Perfect Day’s precision fermentation process, which is built on the same basic principles as the fermentation process used in brewing beer, microflora are taught to produce whey protein, said Liza Schillo, director of sustainability and social impact for the company.
“This protein enables the creation of products with all the benefits we love from dairy, with a reduced environmental footprint,” Schillo said. “We have now commercialized our protein via B2B partners and our own consumer brands.”
Perfect Day has set up a third business unit, called nth bio, to offer this expertise to companies who share its mission. Schillo said the impetus of producing these types of sustainable products stems from people’s fondness for dairy.
“We love dairy and exist to be part of making sure generations to come can continue to enjoy it,” she said. “We believe that alongside sustainable traditional dairy leaders, we can create a future food system where we offer consumers all of the nutrition and joy of dairy, without compromising the future of our planet.”
Perfect Day’s product mix has given traditional products the unmistakable taste and texture of traditional dairy, Schillo said.
The Urgent Company made its marketplace premiere with the launch of Brave Robot, a revolutionary ice cream made with Perfect Day’s non-animal whey protein, which uses science and a little bit of technology to remove animals from the equation without sacrificing the indulgent taste and texture of dairy.
The Urgent Company has multiple brands in the market, including Brave Robot and Modern Kitchen cream cheese in the US.
Schillo said that an ISO-conformant, third-party expert panel-validated lifecycle assessment found that, compared to traditional production methods, Perfect Day’s process reduces water consumption by up to 99%, greenhouse gas emissions by up to 97% and energy use by up to 60%.
If Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein was used in just 5% of the dairy products on US shelves today, over the course of a year, it would save the equivalent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 140,000 roundtrip flights between San Francisco and New York, enough water to fill 1.4 million Olympic swimming pools and enough energy to power Washington, DC for six years, Schillo said.
“This assessment study showed that our process has unlocked one critical tool creating more sustainable dairy, alongside planet-positive steps from traditional dairy, plant-based offerings and other impactful leadership approaches across the food system,” she said.
Schillo said Perfect Day is excited to continue to extend its impact into new products, categories and markets by collaborating with companies big and small that share its mission.
“Through our work with nth biology, we are enabling even more companies to create their own impact — both across and beyond the food system,” she said. “I think you’ll simultaneously see future growth from more companies entering the space, and those of us already in market accelerating our scale rapidly. At Perfect Day, we’ve grown our production 500% in the past year — and we’re looking into building out our own manufacturing to accelerate that pace even further.”
Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Milk Specialties Global (MSG) is a human and animal nutrition company that creates ingredients designed to deliver superior nutrition performance. The company explores new ways to improve product performance through its broad human and animal nutrition portfolios.
The company’s ingredients, marketed under the consumer labels of its partners, can be found in products sold by major retailers around the globe.
Erin Huls, sustainability specialist for MSG, said sustainability is in the company’s DNA.
“Our company is built around upcycling,” Huls said. “As the dairy industry continues to evolve, we believe in doing the right thing and recognizing that we have a shared responsibility. At MSG, every employee sets annual sustainability goals to help integrate our environmental mindset into our everyday lives. We are also constantly looking at new projects that make our facilities run more efficient or ways to reduce our utilization of natural resources.”
To show its commitment to doing the right thing, Milk Specialties has made the US Dairy Stewardship commitment through the Innovation Center for US Dairy.
“This commitment requires transparency around our environmental impact along with a commitment to help the dairy industry to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050,” Huls said.
Upcycling creates value out of a product that was considered waste.
“Whey was historically considered a byproduct of the cheesemaking process with little to no value and simply disposed of,” Huls said. “Today there is great demand for the protein and other nutrients that can be captured from the whey.”
The company partners with artisan cheesemakers to collect their whey and process it into valuable ingredients used for food products, ensuring that every ounce of nutrition in a farmer’s milk is captured and utilized.
“This creates more value for everyone along the supply chain, from the farmers to the consumers,” she said.
Huls said consumers are demanding more protein in the products they buy, so there are some very interesting and innovative things happening in the marketplace.
“From protein shakes to sports drink ... dairy proteins and dairy ingredients are used in a very wide swath of products,” she said.
Leaving the land better for the next generation has been a core principle for dairy farmers for centuries, Huls said. To that end it’s important that the entire dairy industry work together to become more transparent and drive new innovations.
“Continuous improvement is core to any business, so it makes sense to ensure we’re always striving to capture every nutrient in a farmer’s milk, recycle every drop of water and reduce our use of natural resources,” Huls said. “We owe it to the next generation.”
Hydrating for good
Chicago-based GoodSport Nutrition founder Michelle McBride didn’t want her son drinking sports drinks filled with artificial ingredients at his baseball games. She wanted a natural option that was proven to provide effective hydration. Reading about athletes who drink chocolate milk for recovery sparked the idea to look at milk as a natural source of hydration.
So she gathered a team of the world’s top sports nutrition and dairy food scientists to unlock the hydrating power of milk. The result is the patent-pending hydration formula for GoodSport.
“At GoodSport, good is at the core of everything we do, which includes being good to the planet,” McBride said. “GoodSport is upcycled food certified because our main ingredient is sourced sustainably.”
GoodSport works with dairy processors who use only the protein component of milk to make products like whey protein powder. It upcycles the remaining nutrient-rich clear part of the milk (a byproduct called milk permeate) to make a lactose-free sports drink that has three times the electrolytes and 33% less sugar than traditional sports drinks.
With good as the company’s North Star, McBride said it creates a culture of caring, compassion and action.
“If we can contribute to sustainability efforts in any way possible, we are going to do it,” she said. “We didn’t have to upcycle milk permeate to make GoodSport. It adds complexity to the process and our supply chain, but it creates so much value – a new revenue stream for dairy processors, elimination of food waste and water reclamation. With the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week work it takes to make a gallon of milk, we shouldn’t let any of it go to waste.”
Woodland, Calif.-based TurtleTree is on a mission to provide sustainable, cruelty-free dairy and infant nutrition products.
Max Rye, the company’s chief strategist, said TurtleTree has been focusing on the full spectrum of mammalian milk – cell-based dairy.
“What is of great interest to us in the short to medium term is the bioactives that are highly functional within milk,” he said. “These are highly functional and beneficial for both babies and adults.”
For example, Lactoferrin has been proven to strengthen the immune system, improve gut health and benefit brain development. The company recently announced LF+, its version of this powerful ingredient.
TurtleTree technology represents a way to sustainably produce food ingredients at scale; precision fermentation offers a path forward to revolutionary new food options, Rye said.
“LF+ is the world’s first precision fermentation-made lactoferrin, a one-of-a-kind innovation that highlights the immense possibilities available with precision fermentation,” he explained. “In time, LF+ and similar use cases for precision fermentation could help propagate its use to the wider world of food, ushering in a new landscape of nutrition that is more potent, much healthier and immeasurably kinder.”
TurtleTree’s approach involves using alternative methods to produce food that can nourish the planet and people.
“Our current food systems and traditional methods of dairy production are unsustainable,” Rye said. “As the demand for dairy and dairy products increases with the rising global population, novel strategies for food production are more important than ever.”
The company recently pledged participation in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, Singapore chapter, to demonstrate its commitment as a low-carbon business.
“We will be monitoring our carbon footprint in all aspects of our operational activities, R&D, production and travelling,” Rye said. “From here, we can identify and keep our carbon emission in check and measure how new measures can affect and reduce our footprint.”
The company’s pilot facility also will make use of waste water treatment to achieve a circular water system.
“We are also working with partners to develop solutions to recycle the growth media used in our bioreactor or transform it into nutrients for animal feeds and fertilizer,” Rye said. “These solutions would greatly reduce the cost for new consumables, ensure sustainability and contribute to a circular economy.”