Current Weather
The Spy FM

Why Bill Gates Is Investing In Chicken-Less Eggs

Filed by KOSU News in Business.
June 13, 2013

The egg of the future may not involve a chicken at all. In fact, in the high-tech food lab at Hampton Creek Foods in San Francisco, the chicken-less egg substitute has already been hatched.

“We’re trying to take the animal totally out of the equation,” Josh Tetrick, founder and CEO of Hampton Creek Foods, told me.

Hampton Creek’s egg substitute product is called Beyond Eggs. It’s made from bits of ground-up peas, sorghum and a few other ingredients, and it’s attracting the attention of high-tech investors including Bill Gates.

If you listen to my story on All Things Considered, you’ll hear that it’s pretty hard to distinguish between cookies made with Beyond Eggs and those made traditionally with real eggs. The company has also developed an egg-less mayonnaise and salad dressing using its egg substitute.

And why does this matter? Well, investors like Gates are betting that our planet can’t sustain the current rate of growth in animal-based foods for too much longer.

In 2000, the global demand for eggs was about 14 million tons, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2030, that’s expected to climb to 38 million tons.

This is part of a broader global trend: As nations become wealthier, people begin to eat more animal products. In fact, the annual per capita consumption of meat has doubled since the 1980s in developing countries, and meat production is projected to double again by 2050, according to this FAO report.

“Raising meat takes a great deal of land and water and has a substantial environmental impact,” Gates writes. (Note: The Gates Foundation is a funder of NPR’s coverage of global health). “Put simply, there’s no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people,” Gates concludes.

A big part of the environmental footprint of eggs and meat (as this infographic shows) is the amount of water and land it takes to grow the grain that’s fed to animals used in food production. There’s also the fossil fuel energy needed to produce and transport the products.

So increasingly, innovators are looking to develop plant-based alternatives. For instance, Beyond Meat is producing a meat-substitute product that’s gaining a lot of attention. And there are more companies marketing egg-substitute products, such as Bob’s Red Mill and Ener-G Inc.

“Egg replacements are not something new,” says food scientist and food industry consultant Kantha Shelke of Corvus Blue.

But she says what is new, is the growing global demand for plant-based foods.

“Today, having an egg-replacement or non-egg label [on a packaged food] is very appealing in the food industry,” says Shelke.

There are lots of reasons behind the eggless appeal. Fake eggs don’t raise the same food-safety concerns (as we reported, a Salmonella outbreak linked to eggs sickened 1,600 people in 2010). And some consumers also worry about food allergies and the cholesterol found in eggs.

So, what’s Tetrick’s next challenge in bringing his plant-based egg one step closer to the real thing? He wants to perfect his version of the scrambled egg. So far, it’s been tough to get the texture right, he says: His eggs tend to crumble into little pieces in the mouth.

If you want to see how Hampton Creek’s eggs scramble up, take a look at this video. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

6PM to 6:30PM Marketplace

Marketplace

Hosted by Kai Ryssdal, award-winning Marketplace is public radio's daily magazine of business and economics.

Listen Live Now!

6:30PM to 7PM All Things Considered

All Things Considered

For two hours every weekday, All Things Considered hosts Robert Siegel, Michele Norris and Melissa Block present the program's trademark mix of news, interviews, commentaries, reviews, and offbeat features.

View the program guide!

7PM to 9PM The Oklahoma Rock Show

The Oklahoma Rock Show

The Oklahoma Rock Show filters through dozens of submissions a week to find the best in new local music. Ryan LaCroix is the host and mastermind behind the show and teaches at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO).

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center