In Belgium, a dairy technology startup has launched a “bounty hunt” for a fungal strain that can produce milk proteins. Those Vegan Cowboys—the brainchild of plant-based meat company The Vegetarian Butcher—has offered €2.5 million ($2.94 million) for the strain.
The company aims to produce cheese other dairy products without the environmental impact and cruelty of conventional animal husbandry, calling its “Stainless Steel Cow” concept the next logical step in farming.
“Rather than the fastest, we are looking for the most efficient fungus with the best results. Might come from Russia, might come from China, might come from a small lab in Illinois. We’re determined to find this fungus, and make our Stainless Steel Cow the new standard,” says co-founder Jaap Korteweg, adding that replacing animals will allow cows and calves to “go back to living on their own terms.”
The concept would also allow farmers to continue making a living. “What I like about it is that dairy farmers will still remain vital in the new production chain. They own the best grass land,” Korteweg adds.