Starting this week, select Whole Foods stores in California will be phasing out mayo and introducing a vegan-friendly product in their prepared food sections from Hampton Creek Foods called Just Mayo.
If you haven’t heard of Hampton Creek Foods, it’s a food tech startup based in San Francisco that is aiming to change our food system for the better and they’re focusing on eggs.
Most often, eggs are used as an ingredient in food products, particularly as a binder in baked goods. If they can be replaced on a large scale, it would not only alleviate the suffering of millions of egg laying hens, but help us move towards a food system that’s more sustainable and will be able to meet the future demands of a global population that’s projected to reach nine billion people by 2050.
The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that food production will need to increase by 70 percent by then to feed the world. At that level, cutting chickens out of the equation could streamline food production and help curb some of the problems caused by animal agriculture, which is one of the reasons the company has attracted the support of well-known funders including Bill Gates and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Beyond those neatly packaged cartons in stores and other items where egg products go unnoticed, the problems with industrialized egg production abound. From the intensive confinement, mutilation and genetic modification inflicted on hens to the mass killing of male chicks who have no “usefulness” to producers to environmental pollution and the risks of food-borne illnesses, there are quite a few reasons to abandon eggs. Eggs are also high in cholesterol, which is a known risk factor for heart disease.
“You have chickens packed body to body in cages, which is a hotbed for avian flus,” Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, told ABC. “They’re gorging on soy and corn, both of which require a lot of land and fertilizer. From an animal welfare, human health, and greenhouse gas perspective, the system is incredibly broken.”
Unfortunately, the demand for eggs keeps this cycle of cruelty and problems going. Hampton Creek examined these issues and decided there must be a better way to meet the demand with a healthier and more humane option.
Armed with a team of scientists, food industry experts and chefs, the company has developed plant-based, soy and gluten-free alternatives called Beyond Eggs and Just Mayo – products that are a win for both us and animals and can be sustainably produced at a lower cost. Made from about a dozen plants, including peas, sorghum and a type of bean, the results are just as versatile as the real thing. As for how they taste, reviewers seem thus far impressed.
Tetrick admits the path wasn’t a simple one.
“Our first attempts weren’t great, we tried to make a muffin using a mix of plants,” he told the Daily Mail. “Ours tasted really gummy, and didn’t have the ‘bounce’ we wanted. Our mayonnaise would not hold the oil and egg together, so had what looked like liquid syrup. Scrambled eggs were even worse – they just wouldn’t congeal at all, and had a really bad aftertaste.”
The company hopes to have its egg replacer for cookies and Just Mayo available for consumers soon and is working with food manufacturers to get them to replace eggs in their products. It is also working on plans to bring this technology to developing countries. The company’s stand alone egg product, Just Scramble, is still in the works.
While there are already some products out there, including egg replacers and vegan mayo, the intent here is to create a mainstream product for people who may not necessary have any interest in veganism, but who may just want a healthier or cheaper option.
Photo credit: Thinkstock