There are many wonderful vegan substitutes for a wide variety of products, but when it comes to eggs alternatives, the game becomes a bit trickier.
There are various starch-based substitutes available on the market, but let’s be honest – it’s quite hard to achieve the same texture with those when it comes to baking! There are other options such as silken tofu and bananas, but pretty much the same applies to them as well. Besides, what if you can’t help the good old omelette craving? Bananas are definitely not good enough for that (although delicious otherwise).
Besides, what if you can’t help the good old omelette craving?
This is where the egg alternatives revolution, Clara Foods comes into play. Clara foods is based in San-Francisco. Their approach is phenomenal – instead of counting on egg substitutes, they found a cruelty-free way to make egg whites from cell culture (without any involvement from hens, of course).
Clara Foods cellular agriculture company was initially launched by New Harvest in November 2014 by connecting two New Harvest community members, David Anchel and Arturo Elizondo. The project, started as the New Harvest Egg Project and later re-branded as Clara Foods, has raised – get ready for this – over $1.75 million since then, proving that the world needs innovative, sustainable, cruelty-free egg alternatives. Clara Foods has been named “the most successfully invested-in company of the class”, raising the amount of money required to start even before their big Demo Day.
As you can probably guess, the process of creating an egg white is not easy, to say the least. Naturally, an egg white is a carefully crafted composition of approximately 12 key proteins and many more “minor” ones. These proteins are the very reason why an egg white gels when cooked, makes amazing firm peaks when whipped, and also has a superability to bind ingredients in cooking. In other words, these proteins are the functional core of an egg white.
For a long time, the only way to “harvest” the eggs on a global scale was to exploit hens within high density industrial systems. Cruel, unnecessary practices, including but not limited to breeding of laying hens, culling of male chicks and keeping the animals in small, crowded cages or barns in unsanitary conditions with little to no veterinary attention, were considered a norm for decades.
An average factory hen produces about one egg per day for approximately 100-130 weeks, until the bird is slaughtered. Needless to say, it’s not a happy life. It’s also much shorter than a natural lifespan of 7-8 years. On top of that, these hens never become meat. As they were designed solely for eggs laying, they bones usually end up being way too fragile to go through traditional meat production process.
Fortunately, today many people are looking for a better way – and Clara Foods is easily one of the most innovative projects here. Clara Food’s eggs alternatives are very different from many other options, as egg white proteins are made by yeast, not by miserable factory farmed chickens.
How is it possible? In short, the technology involves “reprogramming” yeast by inserting the egg white proteins’ genes straight into the yeast cells. Sugar is also added to the mixture to assist yeast growth. As a result of this carefully crafted process, the yeast produces the exact same egg white proteins that an ovulating laying hen would normally produce. Simply fascinating!
By the way, don’t worry – there is no yeast in the end product. After enough egg proteins are produced, the egg whites are separated from the yeast. As a result, the end protein mixture has no detectable yeast whatsoever.
There are several important benefits of egg alternatives produced from yeast, compared to producing eggs from laying hens.
First of all, producing egg alternatives from yeast is sustainable, and it’s easy to maintain a stable egg supply this way. Eggs are not the cheapest product as such, and when unpredictable happens, it causes prices to creep up further (sometimes two-three fold).
For instance, an avian flu outbreak in the spring of 2015 resulted in the cull of thousands of chickens – of course, egg prices doubled. Given the horrible unsanitary conditions of many eggs-producing factory farms, it’s not surprising that such outbreaks happen relatively often – and are almost impossible to contain.
In addition, yeast is a very simple organism, which makes the process even more predictable and sustainable. Unlike a chicken, who needs to be around 20 weeks old to start laying eggs, yeast doubles every hour or two. Yeast also doesn’t consume a lot of resources such as land and water. Moreover, the yeast egg alternatives’ production process is virtually waste-free.
Another important consideration is, of course, animal welfare.
Apart from ceasing unnecessary animal suffering, this has additional benefits for consumers as well. For instance, if no animals are involved in the process, there is a zero chance of bacterial contamination. Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli live in the gut and feces of chickens, and outbreaks of those tend to be very nasty, and sometimes even deadly.
It’s also worth mentioning that compared to factory farming, alternative egg whites production process is a much safer working environment. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.
Many people die while performing their farm duties, and even more “who suffer major injuries that require hospitalisation and significant time off work”, according to Better Health Channel. One of the major reasons for that being animal-inflicted injuries. Stressed animals are much more likely to bite or kick, and such injuries add additional risks of bacterial contamination.
Another major advantage of alternative eggs production process is the unique opportunity to tailor the mixture of egg proteins to individual needs. Slight modifications can give the egg whites a range of new properties – for instance, they can become fluffier, or gain superior binding capabilities.