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chemistry, Physics, Sustainability

Bacteria based whipping cream anyone?

Okay, I get that a lot of people have a yuck factor for bacteria but we already rely on all sorts of bacteria living inside of us and used in food, yoghurt anyone? So the yuck factor is really based more in how we’re socialized to accept certain things and not others and we can change that. But bacteria hold so much potential for achieving things that aren’t currently possible. The latest one I’ve seen that’s pretty cool is using different types of bacteria to create different textures of whipped cream from stiff peaks to velvety smooth.

So whipping cream has some super cool physics but that comes at the expense of our health and the planet’s health. First, let’s talk planetary health. Traditional whipped cream is made from cows milk and as we know cows have a huge environmental impact between the quantities of food they consume, the associated water requirements, and the excessive greenhouse gas emissions. On the plant based side, we can potentially, depending on where you live, have things like coconut based whipping cream but that also has pretty sizable environmental impacts as the coconuts are grown in the tropics and transported huge distances to market. On the human side, milk based and plant based cream had high fat, more specifically, they have high saturated fat content. This makes them hard on our health too.

Finding a sustainable alternative could mean it’s better for your heart and the planet but what are the options? As of some brand new research, bacteria based creams might be the future solution. Jiang et al (2022) have been experimenting with lactic acid bacteria, which is a group of those good bacteria, and recently tested out what they could do with whipping cream. They used two different species based on how strong the networks are between each other. The one that’s more water loving created a smooth cream, while the one with stronger bonds to each other could be mixed to stiff peaks.

The researchers say that this is really proof of concept. They’ve shown that this is possible so research with these species can continue but it can also inspire similar research with other species. In the plant based meat world, the texture is one of the hardest things to replicate. What these scientists have shown is that we can think outside the box and potentially find new, more sustainable, and healthier options for even something as cool and tasty as whipping cream.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.

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