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As many opt for a plant-based diet, vegetarian options are big business. However, some dairy products just cannot be mimicked. Now, a Malmö University professor is on course to develop a fresh nutritious vegan cheese-making procedure.
The planet’s limited resources and growing population have never been more under the spotlight. This is what prompted Marité Cárdenas, a professor at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces, to embark on the project.
If we are going to make it from scratch, we don’t need to do it the way nature does it. Nature designed milk because it needed the milk, it didn’t need cheese! We can make it the perfect milk for cheese making.”
Marité Cárdenas, Professor, Malmö University
“There are a lot of dairy products, which of course are produced from milk, and milk is a difficult material to mimic. Therefore the idea is to work out how to mimic it so we can create dairy products that are plant based.
“I realize that there’s an increasing concern in the world, so we will need to find ways to become more sustainable. Cheese is a really important food — it certainly is on my table — and if you would like to eat the vegan cheese which is presently available in the supermarkets, you might be disappointed.
“The current vegan options aren’t really mimicking dairy cheese production, they are doing something completely different and that is because there’s a great technological limitation,” said Cárdenas.
Milk is made up of proteins — such as caseins — and fats. The proteins are formed in a unique structure. When cheese is made, enzymes or bacteria react with the proteins in this way that curd is formed. It is this curd which forms the foundation of cheese.
“This process is difficult to mimic if you do not have these specific proteins, which only exist in animals. A lot of companies are working to produce them recombinantly using yeast by way of instance, this is something that’s done by a molecular or synthetic biologist.”
Cárdenas’ goal is to utilize her knowledge as a physical chemist to formulate milk from the plant-based proteins.
“If we are going to make it from scratch, we do not need to do it how nature does it. Nature designed milk since it had the milk, it didn’t need cheese! We can make it the perfect milk for cheese making.
“We can add things in the milk which are great for the body, like vitamins and minerals that are lacking in a vegan diet, and formulate them in such a manner that they will remain in the cheese. This increases their opportunity to really be adsorbed in the body.”