Fungus-made protein may be an eco-friendly alternative to egg whites
Egg white powder is a very widely used food ingredient, which means that a lot of hens have to be raised on a lot of farms, consuming a lot of feed and producing a lot of waste. There may soon be a greener alternative, however, thanks to a fungus which produces a key egg white protein.
In a study conducted by the University of Helsinki and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, scientists genetically altered filamentous Trichoderma reesei fungus so that it would produce and secrete ovalbumin, which constitutes over half of the protein content in egg white powder.
They did so by isolating the chicken gene responsible for producing ovalbumin, inserting it into the fungus, harvesting the secreted protein, then concentrating and drying it into a powder. When tested, that powder exhibited many of the same desirable qualities as egg white powder, such as the ability to foam up.
Additionally, the scientists state that as compared to raising hens for their egg whites, production of the fungus-derived ovalbumin should reduce land use requirements by nearly 90 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31 to 55 percent.
They have yet to determine precisely how much energy would be required, but believe that it should be substantially less than is currently required by chicken farms. If low-carbon energy sources were to be used, the researchers estimate that the reduction in greenhouse gases could be as high as 72 percent.
A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Nature Food.
Source: University of Helsinki