Fat Free, Straight from the Cow

Finally, all those hard-working food scientists are getting their share of the limelight. First, Dutch researchers announced they’d made baby steps toward growing pork in petri dishes. Now, New Zealand tells us that it has a herd of cows able to produced pre-skimmed milk. One cow even has a rogue gene for always-spreadable butter.

A report in the trade journal Chemistry & Industry (also released widely on the Internet) says that herds specifically bred to produce low-butterfat milk that’s high in polyunsaturates could become available to dairy farmers by 2011.

This does, of course, reverse a longstanding tradition of valuing certain dairy breeds, like the Jersey and the Guernsey, for their rich, high-butterfat milk. Just as pork enthusiasts have sought out fattier and more flavorful heritage breeds in the face of ever-leaner commercial pigs, cream-top lovers of the future might have to seek out old-fashioned cows to get their daily dose of dairy goodness.

Scientists are also excited about the discovery of a single cow—appropriately named Marge—that has what we’d have to call the Parkay gene. Butter made from Marge’s milk stays soft even when chilled. Could this be an end to the leave it out/keep it in the fridge debate long tyrannizing all butter-dependent households?

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