Because it contains a lot of protein, egg white powder is among the most common ingredients used in the food industry. Rearing the chickens necessary for sourcing those egg whites, however, has a significant environmental footprint. As demand for egg white powder is only expected to grow in the future, a team of scientists has recently come up with a more sustainable, fungus-produced alternative.
The greener substitute, produced with the help of ‘precision fermentation’, comes from scientists at the University of Helsinki and the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. As part of their study, published in Nature Food, the team genetically altered filamentous Trichoderma reesei fungus, in a bid to enable it to secrete ovalbumin, which makes over half of the protein content in egg white powder.
The process involved inserting the chicken gene responsible for producing ovalbumin into the fungus. This enabled the fungus to secrete the protein, which was then collected and dried into a powder. In tests, the team observed that the powder shared many of the same desirable properties as egg white powder, including the ability to foam up.
Most importantly though is the reduced environmental footprint associated with the process. According to the scientists, producing the fungus-derived ovalbumin could reduce land use requirements by nearly 90 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 31–55 percent compared to the production of its chicken-based counterpart.