The Problem with Cheese


cheese in a mousetrap

We love cheese. Cheese has been a delicious and omnipresent food staple in most of the world for centuries. Cheese wins the food popularity contest hands down because it is so incredibly versatile. It is savory, creamy, delicious and available in an infinite variety of types, textures and flavors. That’s why it has emerged as an $89 billion global food powerhouse – the one part of the traditional dairy industry that keeps growing every year.

However, there is a problem with cheese. Cheese isn’t sustainable. For all its gooey charms, cheese is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Yes, it’s second only to red meat (beef and lamb) in emissions per pound of food. Why?

Dairy cows are ruminant animals. Their digestion produces methane gas from the 50 pounds or so of grass and feed they eat daily. Just imagine nearly 300 million of these 1,600-pound gas creators mooing their way into the climate impact hall of fame.

This is important to all of us because methane happens to be 86 times more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide, on a 20-year time scale. Producing just one pound of cheese releases the same amount of greenhouse gases as burning 10 pounds of coal!

greenhouse gas emissions of food

What’s more, producing cheese requires more freshwater than any other food. It takes about 673 gallons of water to produce just one pound of cheese. That’s about 16 bathtubs! Cheese is also a major user of our land. One pound of cheesy goodness requires the same amount of land that could be used to grow about 100 pounds of potatoes.

The truth is, for all its delightful, fashionable culinary wonderfulness, cheese is a critical player in the environmental impact story.

What do we do? Should people stop eating cheese? In short, thankfully, no.

Cheese is ready for a makeover. A change that can deliver all the great taste and texture we love at a fraction of the environmental cost. Yes, it will soon be possible to make cheese sustainably.

freshwater requirements per pound of food

We are ushering in a new era in dairy, with one revolutionary change… no cows.

Thousands of years ago clever humans discovered the benefits of fermentation to make things like beer and wine. Today, advances in food technology have brought us to the edge of a revolutionary moment. One that will sustainably recast the future of food, especially our beloved cheese. Here’s how…

The most important ingredient in traditional cow’s milk cheese is a milk protein called casein. Casein is what gives animal-based dairy cheese its seductive melt and stretch. Plant-based cheeses use vegetables, nuts and other ingredients to mimic the flavor and texture of cheese. Unfortunately, the taste and meltiness often fall short, because plant proteins just don’t get us there. This is where Precision Fermentation comes in.

We use microbes that are designed to produce the exact milk protein, casein, when fermented with simple sugars and nutrients. At the end of fermentation, milk proteins are filtered out from the broth, resulting in a fine powder of animal-free casein proteins that are identical to those made by a cow. And because we don’t need to farm large animals for milk, we are able to produce these animal-free milk proteins with up to 100 times less land, 10 times less water and 5 times less energy per pound of protein than the dairy cow variety. Now, that’s a planetary win!

animal-free casein

New research shows that 66% of consumers are either passionate or concerned about sustainability. For good reason, too. We see climate changing all around us. The UN Food and Agriculture Report, signed by 270 scientists from 67 countries, calls for urgent change in our food system. Yet, we find it difficult to change because our beloved foods are too enjoyable to give up, as they are woven into our culture, traditions and everyday pleasure.

Considering that we are heading toward 10 billion humans on earth by 2050, we surely need a more efficient, sustainable and regenerative way to feed the growing population.

We are on a mission to transform the dairy industry, by ushering in a new era of great-tasting sustainable animal-free cheese, crafted without the huge environmental impacts and ethical concerns associated with raising animals for food.

Cheers to cheese without compromise!