Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, soon we may not need either to make scrambled eggs…
As we battle the winter storms and look forward to the spring, the supermarkets have already begun to line their shelves with chocolate Easter eggs; Cadbury’s Creme Eggs sit temptingly at the checkouts, and the shelves are piled high with those all-important free-range eggs for our Pancake Day pancakes – yum! But, across the pond, a group of biochemists are focusing on a whole different kind of egg – the plant-based egg.
Yes, you read correctly. This egg-centric concoction is made completely from plant proteins, and it is hoped it will provide an alternative to chicken eggs. The organisation behind this cracking idea is Hampton Creek Foods in San Francisco, where scientists have been busy beavering away to create an egg replacement that is just as good for you as a hen’s egg and tastes just like the real deal. The company is already backed by some big names, such as Bill Gates, and this year they have been given the biggest donation to date – a whopping $23 million – from Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing.
The idea at Hampton Creek is not to replace the humanely sourced, free-range eggs you buy in the supermarket or at your local farmer’s market. Free-range eggs, happily, are plentiful and not hideously expensive. It’s the thousands of other egg-containing products these guys are targeting. Li Ka-Shing’s Horizon Ventures will be leading the new development of plant-based egg production, with the ultimate goal of replacing eggs in other products – Hampton Creek’s eggless mayonnaise is already a huge hit – as well as creating an alternative plant-based scrambled egg by the end of the year.
As the main cost in egg production is feeding chickens, it’ll be a big money-saver for companies who use eggs to create the likes of quiches, muffins and other baked goods. It’s also hoped that this new fake egg will reduce the use of caged hens, which are sometimes kept in appalling conditions. So, who knows – this time next year we might all be having faux scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, or at least some egg-free mayo with our chips.