Israel-based biotech startup Wilk says it has developed the first cell-cultured milk fat for use in yogurt.
“It has long been established that milk fat is integral to supporting human health and nutrition, aiding the absorption of key nutrients, such as vitamins D and E and calcium, into the blood while providing a rich source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties,” Wilk CEO Tomer Aizen said in a statement.
A growing number of consumers are shifting away from dairy products, including yogurt, because of their environmental impact. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change.
Cell-cultured milk fat
And while products like full-fat yogurt may offer some benefits, particularly from the fermentation process, dairy is a top allergen as well as a link to a number of health issues. Up to 90 percent of Asians and 70 percent of Black people cannot tolerate dairy.
According to Aizen, though, the “core” beneficial properties of milk fat cannot be replicated through most alternative technologies. Wilk is the first company in the world to develop a dairy product containing “genuine, cell-cultured milk fat,” but without the need for cows.
The two-year-old Wilk is using the cell-based technology a number of companies are using to replicate meat by growing it from a small sample of animal cells. These cells are then fed a media that allows them to replicate.
There are other technologies replicating dairy, namely precision fermentation. It’s the technology behind Bay Area brand Perfect Day, which produces animal-identical whey protein through programming microbes to replicate the proteins in dairy. The whey is then used in a number of products including milk, ice cream, and cheese.
But Wilk says its cell-based milk fat is the real thing; it contains all of the core components and nutrient profile of cow-based milk fat.
The company says the cultivated milk fat allows for a more sustainable alternative to dairy but with all of the taste, texture, and applications of conventional milk products. Wilk says the yogurt serves as proof that animals aren’t needed in order to have products identical in every other way.
“We will continue investing our efforts and resources to develop cell-cultured milk and breast milk components that will help our partners produce healthier products in a more sustainable manner,” Aizen said.
Wilk’s cell-based yogurt is being used as a concept product as part of a six-month program aimed at accelerating the production of cell-cultured milk fats. The company is also developing human breast milk from cells that could revolutionize the infant formula market.
Currently, cell-based technology is only approved for sale in Singapore for Eat Just’s Good Meat chicken.