A startup that makes cultured mozzarella and ricotta cheeses without cows recently received record funding from investors looking to tap the growing market for environmentally friendly dairy alternatives.
Adrienne Bitar, lecturer in American studies, specializes in the history and culture of American food. She says:
“Plant-based and cultivated (or “lab-grown”) alternatives to animal products have moved well beyond the vegetarian aisle. New biotechnologies have opened up whole new markets in dairy, meat, and even leather. Venture capital has poured into ambitious start-ups that promise to revolutionize animal agriculture from the bottom up. Many experts now believe that these new biotechnologies will do for animal agriculture what the automobile did for the horse - render them ornamental, useful for sport or tourism but not critical to everyday life.
“With a growing awareness of the environmental, ethical, and public health costs of animal agriculture, consumers are quickly looking to both plant-based meat analogues (think Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat), substitutes, and, increasingly, the promising technologies of cultivated animal products harvested from real animal cells but grown in a lab. For the cultivated dairy industry, the “artificial” production of vegetarian rennet, a key ingredient in cheese-making traditionally harvested from the stomach lining of calves, sets a historic precedent showing how food technology can help overcome the limits of animal agriculture for our food system.”
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