The dairy industry’s impact on the planet is immense. Cattle account for the lion’s share of carbon emissions from livestock. It is widely accepted that transitioning to a plant-based food system is more sustainable than one that includes conventional animal products, like meat and dairy. For many, giving up cheese is hard. Miyoko’s Creamery, a vegan dairy company based in Northern California, aims to make phenomenal vegan cheese and butter while revolutionizing the industry with plants. Here’s why Miyoko’s cheese and butter are the future of dairy.
Miyoko’s Creamery is on a mission to create the animal-free “Creamery of Tomorrow”, a blueprint for helping the food system evolve by using plant milk, not cow’s milk. But it’s not just about presenting consumers with a vegan version of cheese or butter. It’s about making vegan cheese and butter that truly rivals its animal dairy counterparts.
“The creamery of tomorrow is superior [to dairy],” Miyoko Schinner, CEO and founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, tells LIVEKINDLY over a video call. “It looks, tastes, and performs like dairy, it tastes better, and it has none of the negative aspects.”
By “negative aspects,” Schinner means not only the environmental impact, but the impact on human health and animals as well. There are a number of health concerns about dairy, ranging from the fat and cholesterol content to the effects of lactose intolerance.
Missing out on the flavor and nutrition of traditional dairy products makes it difficult for many people to make the switch — or at least, to swap the butter on their toast with something plant-based.
Tradition Meets Food Science
That’s why the Creamery of Tomorrow marries the artistry of traditional dairy making with modern food science. In Sonoma County, California, a region known for its dairy farms, the R&D team crafts cheeses and butters made from organic plant-based ingredients such as cashews, hemp, coconut oil, and oats.
The current range of vegan products includes artisan cashew cheese wheels, mozzarella, cream cheese, roadhouse cheddar spreads, farmhouse cheddar and pepper jack slices, shreds and blocks, and European-style cultured butter.
“By understanding how different plant milks behave, we’re able to concentrate that plant milk and concentrate the nutrients,” Schinner explains. “This means plant-based cheese will have the same nutrients as regular cheese.”
The company’s proprietary technology uses traditional creamery techniques of fermentation and enzymatic activity to concentrate the proteins and nutrients in plant milks before they are made into vegan cheese and butter. This is the Creamery of Tomorrow; plant dairy that tastes and performs like their conventional counterparts, but without the aforementioned “negative aspects.”
“We can’t just continue to make products for vegans,” says Schinner. “If we’re going to win the flexitarians and omnivores and have a worldwide impact, then we need to deliver products that are not only delicious, but whole foods-based.”
“We try to make everything from whole foods,” Cecylia Szewczyk, Director of Innovation at Miyoko’s Creamery, tells LIVEKINDLY. Many vegan cheese brands on the market are made from a blend of oils and starches, which helps them stretch and melt. But Miyoko’s starts with whole food ingredients and healthy bacteria.
“And then we fully ferment those whole foods, which is an art in itself because it’s not very easy to ferment on a global scale,” Szewczyk continues.
How Miyoko’s Cheese and Butter Is Made
Before joining Miyoko’s, Szewczyk spent more than a decade in the dairy industry. So, she’s familiar with not only how to make dairy products, but also how they should taste and behave when you cook with them.
When you try Miyoko’s vegan cheese or butter, you taste the unmistakable tangy flavor that dairy products have. But, how do they make that happen?
Fermenting is a delicate science that requires a specific set of conditions throughout the entire cheesemaking process in order to help the microbes grow.
Fermented foods are also key to the health of the gut, the epicenter of our immune systems. Your gut is home to hundreds of species of bacteria and the probiotics in fermented foods can help restore the balance of “good” bacteria.
Due to their high probiotic content, fermented foods can also help strengthen your immune system.
“Miyoko doesn’t want to take shortcuts. We want to undertake the ambitious route. So, all of our products are and will be fermented. What this means is that we will try to develop flavors and textures via fermentation,” Szewczyk adds. In fact, they’re so confident that they can make this happen that the brand eliminated all added flavors.
Szewczyk explains that “fermentation is actually a method of the biodegradation of food.”
During the process, the microbes “eat up” the sugars present in the ingredients, which increases the level of acidity (and that’s where the “tangy” flavor comes from). The company also ages some of its cheese wheels, just like a cheesemonger.
Vegan cheese can be made from coconut oil, soy, or nuts and seeds. But, Miyoko’s works with cashews for a very specific reason.
“Cashews contain about 6.8 percent sugars that can be fermented. That’s more than you typically have in dairy milk, which has about 4.5 percent sugars,” says Szewczyk.
It’s all based on combining traditional dairy-making techniques with modern food technology. “When [the dairy industry] makes cheese, they wash the curds or they run the milk through ultrafiltration to partly remove the sugars. So, they can actually control the acidity of the final product,” Szewczyk continues.
Miyoko’s R&D team is using a very similar technique, but instead, they’re doing it with plants.
You Have to Be Bold to Make an Impact
Many food brands, Schinner says, are afraid to step on people’s toes. But she believes that the brand has to be bold in order to make an impact. That’s why compassion for animals is also part of the brand’s core mission.
“Compassion and love can solve everything,” Schinner tells LIVEKINDLY. “If you approach the food system from a place of compassion, you’ll start to care about everything.”
Schinner’s love and respect for farmed animals is apparent when she talks about the ones that reside at Rancho Compasión, a Nicasio, California-based sanctuary that she co-founded in 2015. She knows the 100+ animals that reside at the safe haven as individuals.
“Angel the cow would prefer to hang with Echo the goose [over other cows,],” she says, laughing. (It’s true; their famously odd friendship even has a little blurb on the sanctuary’s website.)
“We need to look at [farm animals] as we do our dogs and cats,” Schinner adds.
This compassion that lies at the heart of the Creamy of Tomorrow extends not only to the animals traditionally used for food, but also to the dairy farmers themselves. Schinner wants to form alliances with America’s struggling independent dairy farmers left behind by Big Dairy.
According to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Milk Production report, there were 3,231 fewer licensed dairy operations in 2019 compared to 2018. For years now, dairy farmers have struggled with low prices resulting from large supplies outweighing demand in the US and worldwide.
Schinner has extended an olive branch to some of those struggling farmers, offering to help them transition to growing plant-based ingredients needed in the company’s cheese and butter-making processes.
To learn more about Miyoko’s Creamery, visit the website.
This is a sponsored post.