By Mike Pomranz
Updated December 04, 2014
© H. Armstrong Roberts/CORBIS

Plenty of milk substitutes are on the market—soy, almond, even hemp—but none of them completely match the real thing in taste or texture. One milk startup believes this problem can be solved with a little science.

Muufri launched this year with a simple concept: “to make real milk from the bottom up” (as opposed to “from the cow out”). The company wants to create authentic-tasting cow’s milk that eschews all the negative effects of industrial dairy farming, including the inhumane treatment of animals and global warming concerns.

Starting with the core belief that milk isn’t that complicated of a chemical structure to fake, Muufri began attempting to synthesize milk in the lab. According to Modern Farmer, “They add chemically synthesized cow DNA to yeast cells, then harvest the cultures the yeast grows…. From there, they added things like calcium and potassium and emulsify the mixture into milk.” Additionally, as the company stresses, since they choose what goes into their product, they can also choose what is left out, such as lactose or bad cholesterols. Plus, their milk wouldn’t require pasteurization, leading to an “unprecedentedly long shelf life.”

So how does lab-produced milk taste? Apparently not quite good enough yet. “The technology needs time to develop, and we don’t want people to get too excited — or worse, upset — before there’s even anything to talk about,” Muufri’s CEO Ryan Pandya was quoted as saying. But someone believes in their vision: the company got funding and support from SynBio Axlr8r and Horizon Ventures, the same technology incubators that initially backed Spotify. Pandya said the company hopes to have more news early next year.

Until then, we’ll just have to suffice with drinking the stuff that comes out of a cow’s teat. Eck. When I say it that way, I kinda suddenly have a serious desire for some lab-grown milk.