Environment

Chickenless Eggs Are Almost Here

We'll still be eating eggs in the future, but chickens may not be part of the equation.

Clara Foods, a San Francisco-based sustainable foods company, wants to cut back on the disease-spreading potential and harmful environmental impact of egg-producing chickens — all while harvesting the health benefits of eggs.

Behold: the plant-based, lab-grown egg white.

"Ultimately, protein is the most important macromolecule, one that provides a lot of nutrition and also less calories, and egg whites in particular are entirely protein based. But [making them] is also the most resource intensive,” Arturo Elizondo, Clara Foods' CEO, told Inverse.

Eggs

Clara Foods uses yeast to create proteins similar to those found in chicken-produced egg whites to a variety of ends:

"We asked ourselves, ‘Which are the ones for baking? Which foam the best? Which make the lightest meringues and angel food cakes? Which proteins are the best binders out there so you can make really sturdy gluten-free products," Elizondo told Inverse.

Synthesized egg whites may sound a bit off to some, but Clara Foods is hardly the first company to envision a chickenless egg future.

Previous efforts by food research outfits, like Hampton Creek Foods, to create a more sustainable egg-production infrastructure, have attracted big ticket investors like Bill Gates. Innovators have one eye on the egg industry's harmful environmental footprint and the other on growing global demand.

It's estimated that a single egg can take up to 53 gallons of water to produce. And according to the United Nations estimates, global demand for eggs is expected to swell to 38 million tons by 2030 — more than double what it was in 2000, NPR reported. Not to mention, of course, the reputation for animal abuse in industrial egg farming operations.

While some plant-based "egg" products are already on the shelves, it's unclear when Clara Foods' products might be released. In July, the company brought in $1.75 million in seed round financing. 

All things considered, the lab-grown egg future is looking bright. Soon, we won't have to worry whether the chicken or the egg came first.