Oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, peanut milk, coconut milk—it’s safe to say that plant-based milk has taken over. In the UK, nearly a quarter of British people now consume plant-based milk, with that figure rising to 33 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds. But what if I told you that there’s a new kid on the block, one that is even more sustainable? Enter potato milk, the most sustainable dairy alternative yet.
Suitable for vegans and nut-free consumers, Swedish company DUG has just won a 2021 World Food Innovations Award in the Best Allergy Friendly Product Category for its creation. But why exactly does potato milk stand out from the non-dairy crowd?
“While the carbon footprint of dairy milk varies from country to country, the global average is a whopping 3.0kg CO2 per litre produced. When compared to oat milk’s average of 0.9kg CO2 per litre, it becomes clear there are huge carbon savings to be made,” reports Euronews.
These numbers, coupled with an increasing awareness of climate issues and a peak in sustainable living, are what makes the plant-based milk market so lucrative. That being said, it’s important to note that not all plant-based milk is that eco-friendly. Although almond milk has a low carbon footprint during production (an average of just 0.7 kilogram CO2 per litre) it still requires 120 litres to produce just one glass. More than 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are grown in California, an American state well-known for its droughts and wildfires.
And while almond milk’s high water production value uses less water than it takes to produce one glass of dairy milk, the carbon footprint of shipping it across the world seems to tilt the balance. Equally, soy milk also comes with its disadvantages—due to its primary use for feeding dairy farms and other livestock, soy production has led to vast areas of the Amazon rainforest being cleared, destroying vital ecosystems in the process.
Currently, oat milk remains the most sustainable option when it comes to plant-based milk. It uses slightly more CO2 per kilogram than almonds, but uses less land and significantly less water, making it, until now, the favoured dairy alternative. But wait until you hear about the real spud of the story.
Originally created by Professor Eva Tornberg at Lund University, DUG is the latest plant-based milk to challenge oat milk’s crown. Produced in Sweden, and now available to buy in shops in the UK and online, it is created from an emulsion of the plant-based product—in this case, potatoes—and rapeseed oil.
Available in ‘Original’, ‘Barista’ and ‘Unsweetened’ editions, potato milk is appealing to a young, climate aware, coffee-fuelled crowd, much like oat milk brands Oatly and Minor Figures. And apparently, it’s better for the environment than its competitors. “Everyone wants a plant-based drink that tastes delicious, goes perfectly with hot drinks and is kind to the environment. It’s a tough nut to crack, but we’ve got it figured out. And who would have guessed that the humble potato was the answer?” reads the DUG website.
According to the company, growing potatoes is twice as efficient as growing oats per square metre, and potato milk has a lower carbon footprint than any other plant-based milk, only 0.27 kilogram CO2 per litre. On top of that, compared to almonds for example, potatoes need a lot less water to grow. In fact, 56 times less.
Okay, now that we’ve settled the argument of whether potato milk is the one to go for, you’re probably presented with another crucial question: does it taste nice? While DUG’s products are too recent for me to give you a consensus on the matter, to date, “there’s been a fairly positive reception on Amazon, though several reviewers have commented that the milk splits in tea,” writes Euronews.
One thing is for sure, potato milk is about to make waves in the plant-based milk market. What’s next then, squash milk?
OK, it’s time to address the lab-grown meat in the room. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of or have already engaged in a full-blown discussion about meat (and possibly dairy) that has been grown inside a Petri dish. It seems as though this imminent industry has forever lurked around the corner, but as far as consumers are concerned, has anyone ever even seen a Petri dish steak—let alone nabbed a bite out of one?
Back in 2013, food critics gathered around the world’s first lab-grown burger in a long-anticipated press conference—the burger was paid for by none other than Google co-founder Sergey Brin and cost £215,000 to produce. The reaction to the faux meat was underwhelming to say the least. The food critics reported that the burger tasted “Close to meat, but not that juicy”. And the world’s own fascination with this bizarre concept of a lab-grown slab of meat soon faded too.
But while climate change advocates who had turned to full-blown veganism, sourcing meat locally, or simply limiting their meat consumption to but a few times a month in a bit to reduce their environmental impact, scientists have not ceased to tweak their meat creation.
The technology used to grow food out of Petri dishes is called cellular agriculture. It works by reproducing and multiplying “muscle tissue from a handful of cells taken from an animal. These cells are then nurtured on a scaffold in a bioreactor and fed with a special nutrient broth”, as reported by MIT Technology Review. In theory, meat grown under these conditions is ‘real’ meat on every level—its flesh is red and blood bloody. The only real difference is that it never was a part of an animal, and that’s the truly strange concept to get our heads around.
Many food production industries have a high negative impact on the environment, but few are as palpable as the meat and dairy industries. A recent study shows that the production of meat and dairy takes up 83 percent of global farmland and produces 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, opting out of consuming products from these industries could be the single most effective way of reducing our environmental impact on a personal and global scale, across both pollution and farmland.
So with that in mind—if meat floats your boat that is—wouldn’t a lab-grown steak which produces 19 percent of Carbon Monoxide for every 20 grams as opposed to its animal meat counterpart at 24 percent make more sense to consume? According to Impossible Foods, a faux meat company using only plant-based ingredients, the 4 percent reduction from real meat to lab meat isn’t good enough.
The company is one of many who entered the scene in recent years as part of a growing group who are trying to reduce the environmental impact of meat even further. According to Impossible Foods and its peers, products that mimic all things meat need only combine a delicate combination of plant-based ingredients and a bit of science to tie them all together in a neat hamburger, bolognese or salami.
Whether it’s plant-based or lab-grown, it’s becoming apparent that in order to seriously reduce our greenhouse emissions and impact on the environment, our consumption relationship with meat (and dairy) will need to change. And fast. What needs to follow is not only alternatives that are truly sustainable but that are healthy and, well, equally delicious.