Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Offset Potential for Cultured Milk Protein

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Cultured milk proteins are proteins manufactured in a lab through fermentation rather than from traditional animal farming methods. These proteins are identical to those found in milk (casein and whey), but are created using bacteria or fungi instead of any part of an animal. As humanity faces the problem of feeding an exponentially growing population, cultured proteins have emerged as one potential way to generate consumable protein without the harmful environmental impacts of expanding agricultural production.

This paper focused on answering two primary questions:

(1) How does the environmental footprint of cultured milk protein compare to that of traditional milk protein (derived from cows)?

(2) If there is a significant difference in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between production of cultured and traditional milk protein, would developing carbon credits for cultured protein production be profitable for cultured protein producers?

By comparing a generic cultured milk protein life cycle assessment (LCA) to published LCAs on traditional milk protein, we attempted to estimate the difference in environmental impact and assess whether the GHG emission differential might warrant carbon credit creation for cultured protein projects.






Bhandari, Pradnya, Sara Mason and Lydia Olander (2021). Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Offset Potential for Cultured Milk Protein. Retrieved from



Sara Mason

Senior Policy Associate

Sara Mason joined the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability as a policy associate after graduating from Duke with a master’s degree in environmental management. Her work focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of biodiversity conservation and how that can be leveraged to engage the public and policy makers in conservation efforts. Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, Sara worked in ecological field research and endangered animal rehabilitation.


Lydia Olander

Adjunct Professor in the Environmental Sciences and Policy Division

Lydia Olander is a program director at the Nicholas Institute for Energy Environment & Sustainability at Duke University and adjunct professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment. She works on improving evidence-based policy and accelerating implementation of climate resilience, nature-based solutions, natural capital accounting, and environmental markets. She leads the National Ecosystem Services Partnership and sits on Duke’s Climate Commitment action team. She recently spent two years with the Biden administration at the Council on Environmental Quality as Director of Nature based Resilience and before that spent five years on the Environmental Advisory Board for the US Army Corps of Engineers. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and widely published researcher. Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, she spent a year as an AAAS Congressional Science and Technology Fellow working with Senator Joseph Lieberman on environmental and energy issues. She was a college scholar at Cornell University and earned her Master of Forest Science from Yale University and Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Material is made available in this collection at the direction of authors according to their understanding of their rights in that material. You may download and use these materials in any manner not prohibited by copyright or other applicable law.