The world may have recently been introduced to the first lab-grown burger, but the poultry sector is ahead, with plant-based egg products recently hitting US supermarket shelves.
It’s no novelty either, according to founder of Hampton Creek foods Josh Tetrick, whose mission to replace eggs and other agricultural products with plant-based alternatives has won financial backing from Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
“We want to create a whole new model that makes the (old egg production) system obsolete,” Mr Tetrick told a TEDx lecture covering how to feed a growing population on limited resources. Producing emulsifying plant product cuts out the need for grain to be transported, fed to birds for them to then produce eggs, and thereby reduces carbon and waste, he says.
Mr Tetrick added that 92% of the world’s plant species’ properties were yet to be explored, and that many could replicate the taste, texture and nutritional value of meat or eggs – and combined, create equivalent products.
The artificial egg is a mixture of different plants, including canola, peas and sunflower leicithin, and its creator says producing it costs 18% less than real eggs.
Two lines – an egg-free mayonnaise and a powdered egg product for baking – are being sold initially through Wholefoods stores in the USA, but the supermarket could not confirm if it was to appear in the UK anytime soon.
The firm is also developing a scrambled egg substitute that, although not ready for commercial production, is almost indistinguishable from real eggs in both taste and texture, according to testers.