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Grocery Plant-Based Science Sweets

Can Ice Cream Made With Cow DNA Be 100% Vegan?

The plant-based and vegan industry has found some novel ways to create meat substitutes. Mostly, it’s been finding plant sources of some of the proteins and other molecules key to making meat, which is what companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have done. 

An emerging company, however, is taking a more direct approach to creating these proteins. They’re making products like ice cream that use real milk protein and cow DNA, yet still claims them to be 100 percent vegan.

Photo courtesy of Perfect Day

I know that phrase is going to generate controversy. Yes, it’s the exact same protein you get from milk. Yes, it does utilize the genes from a cow to make the protein. However, it doesn’t use any animals, any DNA extracted from an animal, or animal products whatsoever. 

This vegan milk protein comes from Perfect Day, who specializes in what they would describe as “fermented vegan dairy” that’s 100% animal-free. 

“The cool thing is we’re doing it with fermentation, so not a single cow is involved in our process,” says Nicki Briggs, Perfect Day’s VP of Corporate Communications.

Instead, Perfect Day uses a fermentation process that’s been widely used by various companies over the years. Briggs compared it to how proteins like insulin or rennet are made today in a conversation with Foodbeast.

Photo courtesy of Perfect Day

Rennet, the curdling protein for cheese, is traditionally harvested from a calf’s stomach. Today, 90 percent of it is vegetarian, made by getting yeast to ferment sugars into the exact same protein. According to Briggs, Perfect Day uses that exact same process to make their vegan milk protein. The result is a powder that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and more. 

For milk, it contains two predominant types of protein: casein and whey. The protein that Perfect Day is making, beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), is one of the primary components of whey protein. “We found that beta-lactoglobulin is the most nutritious and the most functional of all of the proteins in milk,” Briggs explained, indicating that BLG was the key one needed to create a functional alternative to getting milk from cows.

To get the yeast, called trichoderma, to make the milk protein, Perfect Day downloaded part of the genetic makeup of a cow into the yeast. Segments of DNA coding in any creature are used by cells to make different key components, including proteins. Adding that code into a yeast cell known for producing large quantities of protein was the key to making Perfect Day’s product. 

One could call this “genetic engineering,” but it doesn’t use a technique like CRISPR, which splices in genes from another creature’s cells. Instead, Perfect Day turned to a virtual source of DNA: Google. 

“We were able to, as silly as it sounds, Google it and find the sequence online,” Briggs explained.  “We were able to use this sequence to influence our microflora.”

The microflora can then grow the protein en masse in giant fermentation tanks. That is then turned into the powder that can be added to an ice cream mix or other vegan dairy products to give it a structure akin to real dairy.

Right now, there’s only two brands in markets that use this novel animal-free whey: Smitten, who teamed up with Perfect Day to make limited batches of “N’ice cream,” and Brave Robot, who heavily advertises the protein they use in their pints of frozen dessert. 

Brave Robot was locally available for me, so I secured some pints to sample and analyze. They use a blend of plant oils to replace the fat you would normally get in milk, as well as sunflower lecithin (a substitute for soy) to emulsify everything together. 

The result is an extremely creamy ice cream that, at serving temperature, is pretty spot on to the original. I would say it does freeze a little bit harder than regular ice cream, but is way closer than any other vegan substitute I’ve tried.

Because this ice cream alternative does use real milk protein, it’s not recommended for those with allergies to milk. Allergies are triggered by proteins, and while a different protein (called alpha-s1 casein) is a more common allergen trigger in milk, beta-lactoglobulin can still cause issues for those sensitive to milk. 

This, as well as the fact that it is a real protein, are some of the larger concerns some may have in calling what Perfect Day creates “vegan.” Yes, it doesn’t use any animals, but the structure of what’s inside it and real milk are identical. 

Briggs understands that, saying “We want the word vegan to be a helpful navigation tool to find products not named from animals, but don’t want to be misleading.” While she believes that Perfect Day’s product fits under the technical term for vegan, there’s a different phrase she would use as well.

“We see animal-free as the master name for this,” she said. As for terms like lab-grown, describing Perfect Day’s protein as that would be “inaccurate,” as it’s “less sci-fi than it seems.”

While Perfect Day is using a technology that’s not new, they are applying it in a new way by recreating an “animal-free” milk protein that can be used to craft ice creams nearly identical to the original.

Perfect Day does plan to create the entire lineup of milk proteins and other dairy products, but those will come down the line as the company continues to grow.

Categories
Fast Food Plant-Based

Jack In The Box Testing First Plant-Based Menu Item, The UnChicken Sandwich

Those clamoring for Jack In The Box to release some plant-based options have a reason to rejoice now, as the popular fast food chain is testing new UnChicken Sandwiches in partnership with Raised and Rooted plant-based products.

The Unchicken Sandwich will come in classic and spicy options and is made from a plant-based substitute filet from Raised and Rooted that features a split top bun, mayo, lettuce and tomato. For those curious to try this new test item from Jack In The Box, participating locations are in Reno, NV and Monterey, CA.

To help promote this new product, Jack In The Box has released chicken-scented face masks that are free. Just visit here on October 23rd for your chance to snag one while supplies last.

No word yet on a national release of The UnChicken Sandwich, but hopefully a positive reception could lead to wider availability in the future.

Categories
Plant-Based Science Sustainability

New Plant-Based Egg Alternative Makes Going Vegan A Lot More Accessible

Photo courtesy of Zero Egg

Switching to a plant-based diet, whether it be for ethical or environmental reasons, often comes with a cost increase. Outside of tofu, there’s not a lot of cost-effective vegan options out there.

Plant-based eggs is a category that’s particularly expensive. A bottle of JUST, equivalent to 8 eggs, costs $4.50 ($6 for a dozen). Follow Your Heart, a powder egg alternative, can cost $7 for a carton that’s equivalent to a dozen.

A new alternative, Zero Egg, has just emerged onto the market and hopes to make vegan eggs a lot more accessible. Their product, a mix of potato, pea, chickpea, and soy protein, costs 11 to 18 cents per egg, or just over $2 per dozen. It claims to have price parity to a dozen cage-free eggs, which sell at retail for about $3-$4 per dozen.

Photo courtesy of Zero Egg

Zero Egg comes in two varieties: a formula ideal for egg replacement in scrambles, and another meant to substitute into baking mixes. The brand’s big selling point is texture, as it claims to be more fluffy than other egg alternatives available. However, it also is more versatile, as not all egg alternatives can be used for both scrambling and baking.

Nutritionally, Zero Egg’s product contains about 40% of the protein of an egg per serving (roughly 2.5 grams), but is a complete protein source. Environmentally, it uses 93% less water to produce than standard eggs.

As for cost, Zero Egg was able to bring that down through working with co-packers. They didn’t need a novel new factory process to make their substitute, making it easier to produce at scale.

Any restaurants that use Zero Egg will have ways to make it identifiable, including toothpick flags that can be stuck into sandwiches, akin to what Impossible Foods did with its initial burger launch.

Zero Egg will be available to restaurants via Gordon Food Service starting on World Egg Day, October 9th. A retail product will be hitting stores some time in the next couple of years, but there is also a “Home Store” option for any consumers who want to try to access the vegan egg through there.

Categories
Film/Television Grocery Packaged Food Plant-Based What's New

MICKEY NUGGETS: Disney’s Plant-Based Dino Nugget Alternative, Coming Soon

Photo courtesy of Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms

Dino Nuggets have long been the fun chicken caricatures of our school lunches, snacks, and late night cravings. There are many varieties of them today, whether they contain chicken or are plant-based.

However, none yet have had the backing of Disney, who’s lent the iconic Mickey Mouse shape to a plant-based nugget poised to become as popular as the OG chicken dinosaurs.

Photo courtesy of Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms

Disney’s nugget comes courtesy of Kellogg’s, whose plant-based brand Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms is creating the nugget. The protein inside is made with soy, and the resulting product has 57% less fat and 35% less sodium than regular chicken nuggets.

These are meant to be a kid-friendly vegan alternative, giving them fun shapes like Dino Nuggets would, but also a good source of plant protein as well. Given how ubiquitous the Mickey Mouse moniker is, these will definitely be recognizable for kids all over.

It would be especially dope to see this inside of Disney theme parks, where plant-based innovation is already happening at a whirlwind pace. Kellogg’s has told Foodbeast that they don’t comment on future partnerships, but it would be awesome to see it happen.

Regardless, Mickey Nuggets are ready to take kids’ meals by storm when they arrive in the frozen chicken section of retailers nationwide this month.

Categories
Plant-Based

IKEA Japan Serves Up New Meatless Katsu Curry

Photo courtesy of IKEA Japan

When I think of IKEA, my first thought lands on those juicy Swedish Meatballs swimming in rich gravy. The furniture itself, an afterthought. Not too long ago, I discovered that my local IKEA offered a vegan alternative to those meatballs, and they were phenomenal. 

That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that the furniture company is embracing plant-based alternatives even across the globe. 

IKEA locations in Japan have now released a brand new plant-based katsu curry, reports SoraNews 24

Dubbed “Born of the Field” Plant Katsu Curry, guests will find not a single morsel of meat within the curry dish. The katsu is made from a mix of soybean and other plant-based ingredients. It’s topped off with a creamy vegetable curry and served with a side of rice. 

The new menu item’s idea was to create something more sustainable and have a less environmental impact than regular meat. If IKEA Japan’s foot traffic is anything like the US’, it can definitely go through a lot of meat. 

IKEA Japan has also added an entire menu designed around a plant-based motif. This includes rolled cabbage, plant kebab salad, veggie wraps, vegan cheese dogs, and plant-based chocolate mousse. 

Customers can find the new plan-based Katsu Curry at all IKEA Japan locations across the country. 

Categories
Packaged Food Plant-Based

Prego Reveals Their First-Ever Vegan ‘Meat Sauce’

Photo Courtesy of Campbell’s

Italian Pasta Sauce brand Prego is hitting a major meatless milestone this summer with the debut of their newest vegan sauce.

The Prego Plus Plant Protein line is now offering a Meatless Meat Sauce that boasts a meaty taste and texture entirely without animal products.

Instead, consumers will find soy crumbles within the tomato-based pasta sauce.

The jars are currently being shipped to retailers nationwide this summer, reports VegNews. Expect to see them in the pasta sauce aisle of your favorite grocery stores.

For anyone practicing a vegan diet but want to enjoy the consistency of a meat sauce, this is something to check out.

Categories
Fast Food Plant-Based

Starbucks Launches Impossible Breakfast Sandwich

Impossible Foods has joined yet another fast-food chain by beefing up (apologies for the pun) Starbucks’ breakfast lineup with a new meatless sandwich. The new sandwich features one of Impossible’s newest proteins: the vegan sausage patty.

The new breakfast option features an Impossible Sausage patty, a fried egg, and aged cheddar cheese sandwiched between Ciabatta bread.

It should be noted though, that while the patty is entirely plant-based the sandwich itself is far from it with the egg and cheese rounding it out.

Still, if you’re trying to go for something meatless in your morning commute, this a pretty solid option especially if you’re looking for something more on the savory side of breakfast.

Categories
Packaged Food Plant-Based

Vegan Bulgogi and Butter Chicken Bowls Arrive At Target

Every day, more and more vegan options of traditional dishes pop up in our favorite restaurants and local grocery stores. For those who live on a plant-based diet, we’re living in a renaissance of vegan options to choose from.

Vegan brand Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods has now added a few new ready-to-heat bowls that you can find the in frozen food section of your local Target stores.

Two new options include a Bulgogi Bowl and a Butter Chik’N Bowl.

The Bulgogi Bowl is made with Korean inspired plant-based Awesome Grounds and served with purple cabbage, carrots, bok choy and a sesame garlic siracha sauce on a bed of rice.

Fans of Butter Chick’n will find the bowl boasts plant-based Mindful Chik’n with a vegan buttery tomato sauce, chickpeas, carrots and green peas on a bed of rice.

While Sweet Earth offers products in many grocery stores, you can only find these bowls at Target retailers nationwide.