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Zach Vouga: Clear the way for the new vegan

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Perfect Day's animal-free dairy is created by microflora (fungi & bacteria) that has the exact DNA sequence needed to produce cow's whey protein, resulting in a bio-identical replica without the cow.

ZACH VOUGA: “Plant-based” is often used synonymously with “vegan”, and in general, there have always been immense amounts of confusion, uncertainty, and disagreement about whether or not this is a misnomer. My long-rooted feelings have always been that presenting “plant-based” and “vegan” as synonyms was an industry-fueled decision for a more mainstream marketing appeal. “Vegan” or “veganism” for many is a triggering concept. I’ve heard from countless folks that the words alone sometimes evoke feelings of exclusivity, elitism, and even radicalism. For businesses, my own included, “plant-based” was an excellent way to package vegan concepts without noisy stigmas. For some of my fellow ethical vegan comrades, the “plant-based” designation meant “a vegan without the ethics” or someone who found their way to a vegan diet for reasons outside of animal welfare. It’s also important to note that veganism is not merely a diet; it’s a lifestyle focused on minimizing suffering. It affects other factors such as clothing and personal care products…

As the years piled on, global interest in veganism grew, and the movement’s darlings (the initiatives that garnered the most hype) were revolutionary animal protein analogs. The “big three” most transformational products were Beyond Burgers, Impossible Burgers, and JUST Egg…

The conversations started to turn for some, with the term “plant-based” used to indicate a diet that either entirely or mainly comprises whole plant foods that are raw or minimally processed. However, this is not a collectively agreed upon or sanctioned school of thought, and there is still immense amounts of gray area enveloping the matter.

But what if I told you this conversation was about to enter a new dimension of perplexity and clarity? That’s a paradox if I ever heard one. Enter animal-free dairy… Perfect Day Foods has surreptitiously created one of the most important, promising, and divisive products for the vegan & plant-based movement. Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy is created by microflora (fungi & bacteria) who have gone to college and learned the exact DNA sequence needed to produce cow’s whey protein, resulting in a bio-identical replica without the cow. Oh yeah, it also happens to be both lactose and cholesterol-free…

I used the paradoxical descriptors of perplexity and clarity earlier because A) microflora learning DNA sequences and making cow’s milk is of mind-blowing perplexity, and B) we are finally forced into some semblance of clarity in terms of the great “vegan” and “plant-based” conflation. I have always defined veganism as a philosophy and way of living that aims to exclude every form of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food or any other purpose. Under this definition, Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy is vegan, but it is not plant-based. Read that again. Similarly, companies like JUST are making tremendous strides at creating cultured meat from a single fallen feather from a perfectly alive and healthy chicken. Cultured meat or “lab-grown” meat, if handled with the same cruelty-free precautions (i.e., methods that don’t require foetal bovine serum), poses the same divisive lines between “vegan” and “plant-based.”

We are entering a world where businesses and brands will no longer be able to use these terms synonymously or without careful consideration, context, and deeper consumer inquiry. We are entering the world of “The New Vegan,” a consumer who is cruelty-free and environmentally conscious but still consumes real meat and real dairy. The New Vegan is not plant-based, and they might not even realize or accept that they’re, in fact, vegan. Eventually, if these products take off, the entire world may one day become vegan under my definition. Once fully adopted, the term will slowly sink into the obscured historical past… There will also always be those who remain plant-based for health reasons and refrain. However, these groups are not the multitude of constituents who identify as vegan, nor are they the individuals that meat and dairy alternative brands target for sales and growth. SOURCE…

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