December 9th, 2013

Which goes first, the chicken or the egg?

It’ll be the egg that will become obsolete (perhaps even illegal some day, like old-fashioned lightbulbs?) if Hampton Creek Foods (founded by Bill Gates) has anything to say about it:

In its food lab, biochemists grind up beans and peer through microscopes to study their molecular structure, looking for plants that can fulfill the culinary functions of eggs. So far, the company has analyzed some 1,500 types of plants from more than 60 countries.

The research has resulted in 11 “hits,” said Josh Tetrick, the company’s CEO.

“Our approach is to use plants that are much more sustainable — less greenhouse gas emissions, less water, no animal involved and a whole lot more affordable — to create a better food system,” said the former linebacker on West Virginia University’s football team.

The company’s first product — the mayonnaise — is sold for roughly the same price as the traditional variety. It soon hopes to start selling cookie dough and a batter that scrambles like eggs when fried in a pan.

“The egg is a miracle, so one of the hardest parts of replacing it is all the functions that it can do,” said Chris Jones, the company’s culinary director of innovations and a former contestant on Bravo TV’s Top Chef.

I dunno. It all seems fishy to me.

I can’t quite imagine a food that could function like an egg but isn’t an egg, which is indeed a “miracle” for its remarkable capacities, not just as an egg (as in scrambled, fried, boiled) but especially in baking.

And as for “sustainable,” what about all the energy used to turn the vegetable sources into egglike artifacts? What are the greenhouse gases involved in a chicken laying an egg?

It turns out that chicken feet have a tiny little carbon footprint:

Lamb, beef and cheese have the highest emissions, in part because they are derived from animals that release a consistent amount of methane gas, which is a potent green house gas pollutant. Chickens aren’t gassy creatures. They produce no methane and cause far fewer emissions during production. Also, pound for pound, they require less feed than hogs, beef or dairy cattle. Chicken is a good alternative to red meat, which is linked to a variety of health issues like obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even mortality. Of course, protein alternatives like rice and eggs are considerably better for the environment; beans and lentils are better still.

So even if you buy the AGW theory, neither chicken nor eggs seem to be a particularly good target. But hey, that doesn’t stop them from trying, does it?

15 Responses to “Which goes first, the chicken or the egg?”

  1. roc scssrs Says:

    Algae cakes and soma tablets are good enough for me.

  2. FreshPondIndian Says:

    You can pry my chickens from MY COLD DEAD HANDS!

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    No doubt Bill Gates can improve on mother nature. Unfortunately, eggs are a racist food like PB&J sandwiches, the shell is white and so are the egg whites. And don’t most commercial chickens have white feathers? It’s a racist conspiracy, that what it is!

  4. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: I guess they must not be quite so racist in New England, where brown-shelled eggs are preferred. Those Yankees — progressive as always!

  5. physicsguy Says:

    Mrs Whatsit nails it! New England brown eggs have a definite better flavor over white. Even if they are from the egg farm that lies 3/4 mile from my house. It’s a Land O’ Lakes facility (approx 10 million chickens) and produces only the typical New England brown eggs. We call it our secret weapon…. when the wind blows right it sends a certain odor over our high school soccer field. The visiting teams don’t know what hit ‘em, and our kids just laugh and play on.

    However, the best brown eggs come from neighbors who raise a small flock of chickens.

  6. JC Says:

    I suspect that they are seeking not a replacement for the egg as we think of it but for the egg-as-ingredient in other products, e.g. mayonnaise.

  7. expat Says:

    Can you color them for Easter, and what will Easter Bunny say about all this?

  8. fmt Says:

    Sustainability is the hobgoblin of little minds.

  9. fmt Says:

    What came first, the chicken or the egg?

    The farmer.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Say what, plants and greenhouse emissions? Plants use CO2 and make oxygen…

    who the hell is in charge of this guy’s leash again?

  11. blert Says:

    I’m holding out for Soylent Green…

    The ultimate Green lifestyle choice.

  12. KLSmith Says:

    blert: beat me to it. Don’t fear the Soylent Green.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    Has anyone wondered what Hollywood’s carbon footprint is in every movie they make? And how much of their profits and these Green crony businesses, are being used to clean up their waste?

  14. chuck Says:

    May be fishy, but probably not fishy enough. I saw no mention of caviar.

  15. parker Says:

    First there was coffee and then after coffee the chicken laid the first egg and its been CO2 stomping bootheels upon the soul of Gaia ever since. When the hooka smoking caterpilllar becomes the messiah all must fall down and worship at his many feet. This makes no sense but it is after all the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

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