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Camembert, mozzarella, or gouda are just three examples of cheese produced all around Europe. The origin of this food traces back to 8000 years BC when our ancestors domesticated goats and started making goat cheese. Since then, the craft has spread from the Middle East to Egypt and Greece, with the creation of more than 1800 kinds of cheese that we have today. 

As nutritious as they can be, dairy products have a considerable adverse impact on the environment. According to research by the University of Manchester, England, the carbon footprint of a kilogram of cheddar is 14 kg of CO2 equivalent. 

Don’t give up hope though, there are sustainable alternatives to one of your favorite foods! Companies and research centers are coming up with environmentally friendly – yet tasty – options. Ready for a cheesy journey? 

Plant-based gouda

Last May, Mr. & Mrs. Watson – a vegan food-tech company based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands –  launched the first sliced cheese made from plant-based milk. Specifically, they made cheese using protein from faba beans.  

Similar to regular cheese, bean protein is fermented using traditional processes. This is done in combination with new methods that make use of the potential of vegetal protein. This is how they can offer an alternative that provides satisfying nutritional value. The start-up also announced a second funding round, to enable an international roll-out in two years.

Yellow split peas for making cheese

It’s no mystery that legumes are the basis of many alternatives to meat-derived products. Legumes are rich in proteins and nutrients – such as potassium, iron, and fiber. Peas are no exception. Therefore, researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, have also used yellow split peas to make cheese. 

The legume has two main advantages: a high nutritional value and sustainable agricultural properties. Danish scientists are working on the fermentation of yellow peas. Although further research will help develop the flavor and texture, this plant-based alternative is showing potential to become the basis for the cheese of tomorrow.

Vegan casein

The third innovation is not cheese, but what helps make cheese more sustainable. Replacing animal protein is the key to replacing dairy products. That’s what makes the difference in quality, texture, or flavor. Fooditive is working on vegan casein, paving the way for its use as a substitute for cow milk in dairy products where casein tends to be the main milk protein. 

Precision fermentation is what allows Fooditive to replicate casein. The process applies genetic modification to the organism. Amid the controversy that this may provoke, the Rotterdam-based company is working on this method and is also developing other meat alternatives. The vegan alternative developed by the Dutch company says it does not compromise on taste, texture or quality. Fooditive expects to market the product by 2023.