Chicken-free egg production heats up

Plant-based alternatives reduce the environmental impact of traditional egg production. Photo from  JUST

Plant-based alternatives reduce the environmental impact of traditional egg production. Photo from JUST

JUST, a plant-based alternatives company, is gearing up to launch its breakfast egg patty nationwide. It’s not the first company to do so. Follow Your Heart, Bob’s Red Mill, and Ener-G, among others, have debuted powder-based egg replacers made from soybeans, chickpeas, or other beans. JUST eggs are made from the humble mung bean, which contains a protein that scrambles like a chicken egg and is close to tasting like one too. (We’ve tried it.) JUST is also asking people to fill out a short survey to get a sense of the demand for their product.

Why choose vegan eggs? While lamb and beef get most of the attention when it comes to environmental impact (and rightly so), eggs have a surprisingly high carbon footprint. Producing about 15 eggs in the US releases the same amount of CO2 as driving your car 11 miles. That may not sound like a lot but consider that Americans consumed 8.8 billion eggs in October 2017 alone. That’s like driving your car over 586 million miles in one month. The numbers add up quickly.

Eggs have a surprisingly high carbon footprint.

Plant-based eggs offer an alternative. Forbes reported JUST scrambled eggs could save at least 65 percent more fresh water and emit 24 percent fewer greenhouse gases than conventional egg production. Plus they’re hormone- and antibiotic-free.

Clara Foods is also making strides in the egg alternative space. While all the other options still include “yolks” and are made from plants, the San Francisco Bay-area company is working to create the only animal-free egg white, making meringues, angel food cake, and macaroons animal-friendly too. Clara Foods’ process borrows some science from the clean meat industry. By inserting the same proteins found in traditional eggs into yeast cells, the yeast can create egg whites as it consumes sugar and multiples. The yeast is eventually extracted, leaving behind chicken-free egg whites. Like JUST, Clara Foods will require less land and water, plus reduce foodborne illnesses and the use of antibiotics.

JUST plans to roll out its egg products to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hospitals, and cafeterias this summer and fall, starting with San Francisco and Hong Kong. Clara Foods is still in production. Given how aggressively companies are working to develop their products, they most assuredly will be joined by more alternative options.

Takeaway: Filling out a survey is one way to vote for more plant-based options. With companies moving quickly to launch their products, keep an eye out for more alternatives coming to your local grocery stores and restaurants. Find out more about other plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy with our handy chart.