Quite a bit of chatter these days about the all-vegetable, Bill Gates-funded artificial egg. This story and others prompted reader Rainey to ask if I had an opinion on it. I’d be very curious to test artificial eggs in a home kitchen, Rainey, since I have a strong feeling that their main utility will be in the packaged foods industry where manufacturers are forever looking to replace the functional characteristics of animal-based ingredients with vegetable alternatives that won’t spoil and won’t fluctuate wildly in price.
I’m more skeptical about their applicability in the world of baking and pastry. According to the above linked piece, the developers have found a formulation that works great in a cake batter. That may well be the case. But how well will that formulation work for a meringue? As a base for chocolate mousse or ice cream? As a glaze?
The amazing thing about eggs is not that they do one thing well, but that they do so many things well. Packed as they are with different proteins, lipids and emulsifiers, they’re the kitchen’s ultimate utility player. I don’t see a food manufacturer replicating all that in a single product. And if they can’t, why would the majority of people — who aren’t especially bothered by poultry farms or any egg related health issues — buy multiple products for different uses when they can have it all in a single, nature-made package?
Eggs have an awfully well developed brand, as we marketing types like to say. I don’t see people giving them up wholesale for something lab-created. My guess is that they’ll be a successful product, but not a game-changing one for the average home cook. They’ll be a godsend for some, just another choice at the grocery store for others. I wish the developers well since I think artificial eggs will have broad applicability in the industry at large, and will be a blessing for many protein-starved people around the world. I’ll definitely try some when I find them!