General Mills appears to be exploring and developing an animal-free dairy cheese brand called Renegade Creamery.
Renegade Creamery makes plant-based cheese but adds milk proteins produced in strains of yeast and bacteria and uses an “artisan fermentation process.” This technique results in the same taste and texture as dairy cheese, is a sustainable product and reduces greenhouse gases by being animal-free.
The company plans on introducing cream cheese that is lactose and animal-free, along with animal-free shredded cheddar cheese and cheddar slices.
In the past, General Mills hasn’t developed its own stand-alone plant-based brand but has launched some vegan products within existing brands. Some examples of vegan products made by General Mills include plant-based yogurts from Oui and GoGurt and Annie’s vegan mac and cheese.
What is an Animal-Free Product?
Animal-free is a new term being tested within various food start-ups that means producing dairy products that contain the same proteins as animal milk without raising livestock and collecting their milk.
There aren’t any companies currently that are providing consumers with animal-free cheeses. However, there are a few companies that are gaining traction for this innovation in other dairy products.
Perfect Day is known for making milk without the animal. They believe that whey and casein are the secret molecules that make milk creamy and melty in dairy products and have implemented their new technology to create milk without the cow.
Like Renegade Creamery, the company also uses transgenic bacteria and yeast to make the protein because they have a history of being a safe and reliable way of producing animal proteins. The company says that the whey-protein-producing microbes are “fed” plant-based inputs and the milk protein is collected following fermentation.
The milk is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the product does not include any lactose, cholesterol, hormones, or antibiotics.
Another animal-free dairy company Brave Robot, whose products are stocked in 5,000 stores across the US. They are an animal-free ice cream brand that launched in July 2020 with the mission of creating the best tasting and most sustainable ice cream.
Brave Robot uses Perfect Day’s non-animal whey protein to make their ice cream. Therefore, the ice cream does not contain any animal inputs, but contains milk protein. As a result, Brave Robot ice cream is lactose-free and does not contain any GMOs.
So, are animal-free dairy products considered to be vegan? The jury is still out. If a person chose to be vegan and consume a plant-based diet due to the ethics of factory farming and consuming animal products, then choosing an animal-free dairy product could accommodate this lifestyle choice. However, if choosing veganism for another person was motivated by health beliefs around the consumption of dairy or the need to avoid allergens, animal-free dairy products may not be the right choice.