I have a British friend who has been vegetarian for most of her life. At an early age she refused to eat meat, but loved dairy too much to give it up. 20 years ago, veganism wasn’t as widespread as it is now; being vegetarian was a big enough step for most. As a compassionate animal lover, she’s worked in animal shelters, doesn’t wear leather or furs and rarely consumes cheese or other animal by-products. The thing she struggles with is replacing the cow’s milk she puts in her tea and coffee. She hasn’t found a plant-based milk that mixes properly or tastes right, and so she continues to buy cow’s milk.
This is a common complaint among vegetarians who just can’t give up dairy products, and find that plant alternatives don’t do the trick for them—people who care for animals and the planet, but are addicted to the seemingly irreplaceable taste and mouth feel of dairy. And I can’t blame them. If I weren’t lactose-intolerant and didn’t suffer bodily pain when consuming dairy, perhaps I too, would be vegetarian rather than vegan. I don’t particularly care for plant-based dairy, especially cheese. I’ve wasted a lot of money on fake cheeses than turn out to be plasticky or tasteless.
Pat Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods, would agree, calling the current options on the market “inadequate.” He goes on to say, “Our intention isn’t just to make another plant-based milk. It’s to make something that for a dairy-milk lover, is better than anything that comes from a cow.”
While there are some good options out there, there is absolutely no plant-based milk that resembles regular milk. Some companies do a good job at mimicking taste, but the texture (I’ve found) is always slightly off. This makes making the switch all that much harder.
But why is it important to ditch dairy? Fast Company writes that “producing a glass of cow’s milk causes three times more greenhouse gas emissions than producing a glass of rice, soy, oat or almond.” Producing dairy drains natural resources like freshwater and soil. And not only that, one dairy cow produces 17 gallons of waste per day. When mismanaged, that is an extremely toxic load on our environment, acidifying our soil, seeping into our water sources, polluting our air, and speeding up climate change. For more information on the most environmentally friendly milk-alternative, check out this article that compares plant milks.
Last week, Impossible Foods unveiled their new product development: Impossible Milk. The “milk” is made from soy proteins (also what their burger is made from), which may or may not be the base of their product when they launch it. Which, by the way, won’t be for a while. In the last year they raised $700 million to develop a few new plant-based products, aiming to replicate namely milk, bacon and fish. The company is planning to do intensive hiring and research over the next 12 months in order to make these products available commercially.
Their aim for the Impossible Milk is to have a plant-based alternative that is indistinguishable from regular cow’s milk. Dr. Laura Kilman, a senior flavor scientist at Impossible Foods, says, “We’re really looking to create products that function and behave just like the animal-derived version.” For those who are missing the taste of dairy, and vegetarians (like my friend) who want the traditional tea and coffee with milk experience, this is huge.
The differences between Impossible Milk and other plant milks are mainly that Impossible Milk froths and foams, doesn’t curdle in coffee and has a creamy texture.
For someone who loves the taste of oat or soy milk, this is still pretty cool news. Although I most likely won’t partake in it (I never liked the taste of cow’s milk), I can only imagine this is just the start of what Impossible Foods will do. Maybe the next step will be cream, then cheese! All in all I’m excited to see what’s in store for the world of plant-based dairy.
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Photo: Strake, Aceron, NeON BRAND, Kosinska, Akram, CNN (Impossible milk samples).