Does "lacto-fermented" mean that dairy is used?

Image Art Cow There’s a bit of confusion about what “lacto-fermented” or “lacto-fermentation” means. The thinking goes something like this:

Because some “Nourishing Tradition”, as well as traditional European recipes recommend using whey as a “starter” when making fermented foods, it has been assumed the term “lacto-fermentation” meant dairy is used. The thinking goes like this:

  • Whey is from dairy….
  • and dairy contains lactose, a milk sugar…
  • that “lacto” is an abbreviated form of the word “lactose”…
  • Therefore, the wrong conclusion is reached, that lacto-fermented is a term referring to foods that contain dairy products.

So what does “lacto” in “lacto-fermentation”, or “lacto-fermenting”, or “lacto-fermented” really mean?

The correct answer is much easier to follow! “Lacto”, used in “lacto-fermentation” and all of its derivations, refers to lactic-acid bacteria, familiar to most people as “lactobacillus”. “Lacto” is simply the shortened name of “lactobacillus”, the same way that we shorten “Samual” to “Sam”, or “Susan” to “Sue”.

Those who suffer lactose-intolerance, or are trying to maintain a casein-free diet can absolutely have a dairy-free diet when making lacto-fermented foods!

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