There is no stopping progress, let alone food innovation, especially when it comes to finding plant-based alternatives to eggs. In Finland, researchers have found a way to obtain ovalbumin, the main protein in egg white, using fungus. As such, you can get egg white without needing chickens. You take a chicken. You take its genes. Then you put them into a species of filamentous fungus (Trichoderma Reesei). By cultivating it, you then obtain the same protein that makes up more than half of an egg: ovalbumin. And that’s more or less the “recipe” of the research carried out by Finnish scientists from the University of Helsinki and the VTT Technical Research Center.
The scientists’ findings were published in the journal “Nature Food.” The paper explains how these researchers managed to obtain a substance that can replace this essential ingredient in the kitchen. Once cultivated, the protein in question was extracted from the fungus to be concentrated and dried to make a powder. And while it may sound totally crazy, the resulting substance apparently has prime foaming properties, which means it can potentially be whipped up in the same way as regular egg whites.
While this research offers yet another way to produce a plant-based egg alternative, it is of particular interest since it provides a new ecological solution to chicken farming. In 2018, Spanish researchers calculated the cost in carbon emissions of intensive egg production in Europe. When taking into account the often imported food, its packaging, and energy needs, but also the cleaning processes involved, the production of a dozen eggs represents 2.5 kg of CO2 equivalent.
In Finland, researchers have calculated that their fungus-based discovery could reduce farm space requirements by almost 90%, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31% to 55%.