SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - A San Francisco food producer wants to make you an omelet without breaking any eggs - and they may be able to do it with one key ingredient they make in a lab - no chicken required.
From their Mission District laboratory, Hampton Creek Foods and CEO Josh Tetrick are taking aim at the egg farming industry.
"We just cannot go on eating like we all are right now with our food system," Tetrick said. "It's just unsustainable."
Many Bay Area farms let chickens roam the pastures, but the Humane Society says more than 90% of the country's egg-laying hens are kept in cramped conditions. Tetrick takes issue with the restrictive quarters, with the resources needed to feed the chickens, and the diseases they may catch and spread to humans.
"We just kind of look at that and say 'this is absurd,'" Tetrick said emphatically. "Our product is just better."
That's right - Tetrick claims Hampton Creek has improved on the egg. They call their product "Beyond Eggs."
"It's made up of a variety of plants, including peas. We use different gums. We use a host of different plant-based protein sources," Tetrick explained.
It's hard to believe a blend of plants can imitate not only the taste of an egg, but the ability to whip up into foam like an egg, or coagulate into gel like an egg, but Tetrick said his team is clever about selecting plants that not only replicate, but surpass the egg in food products.
Hampton Creek Foods is already baking Beyond Eggs into cookies and mixing it into mayo. Their next mission is to recreate that taste and texture into dishes like scrambled eggs and even omelets.
Former Top Chef contestant Chris Jones is Hampton Creek's Director of Culinary Innovation. On the day of our visit, he was seated close to the floor, working with a giant mixer to produce a batch of mayonnaise using Beyond Eggs.
"An egg is such a miraculous thing, and all the culinarians understand what it really does in a recipe," Jones said with the mixer whirring beside him. "So working with vegetable products, all natural products, to try to make what an egg does is challenging."
Jones was excited about the idea of blending the expertise of the chef with the skill of the scientist.
"We can make a difference," he remarked. "We can do something special besides making wonderful food. Let's take our knowledge and pour it into doing something for the first time."
Tetrick said Hampton Creek is about three months away from getting Beyond Eggs into baked goods made by two top food companies that will replace the "farmed" egg in some products. We asked him what he would say to egg farmers who might find themselves out of work.
"Change happens," he replied. "But when change happens, jobs are created. We're really interested in the company in engaging with farmers."
Unlike the egg, Beyond Eggs are cholesterol free. It's likely you'll be able to buy them in the grocery store within a month, and according to Tetrick, you'll pay about 15% less than regular non-organic eggs.
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