Researchers Transform Fungus Into Egg White Powder

This ‘eggciting’ breakthrough is a win for biotech and the world!

This tasty lemon meringue cake could now be made using egg white powder that is vegan.

(SMarina /

This discovery from scientists is literally icing on the cake! Finnish researchers are offering an eco-friendly alternative to egg whites that could possibly replace the consumption of traditional egg whites. This would be a big win for vegans.

The Future Sustainable Food Systems department at the University of Helsinki teamed up with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) to produce an egg white protein with superior foaming properties, according to a press release from the university.

Using a bioreactor, the team found that when they inserted a specialized chicken gene into fungus, it reproduced ovalbumin, the egg white protein made by chickens. They separated this from the cells, made it into a concentrate, and dried it.

The results are an egg white powder that has the potential to replace the product made from chicken eggs. This study, headed by doctoral researcher Natasha Järviö, was published in Nature Food in December, 2021.

What this means for the food industry
This is exciting news for the food industry, vegans, and for the environmentally conscious. Egg white powder is an important ingredient in food production and is used to make meringues and royal icing, according to Intelligent Living. These hardened icings are also popular for decorating cookies and gingerbread.

The traditional high-quality protein made by chicken eggs is so sought after, around 1.6 million tons were consumed in 2020 alone, according to the press release. And this market is expanding annually. Finding a more sustainable replacement could decrease the need for intensive farming for chicken eggs, thus generating less greenhouse gasses.

It could also address the important issues of water scarcity, deforestation, as well as biodiversity loss. 

“According to our research, this means that the fungus-produced ovalbumin reduced land use requirements by almost 90 percent and greenhouse gasses by 31to 55 percent compared to the production of its chicken-based counterpart,” Järviö said in the press release. 

International interest in this biotechnology
Other countries are also involved in researching using precision fermentation techniques, including the US, Israel, the UK, and Germany, according to FoodNavigator. These start-ups are using different microbial strains, with each fungus reacting slightly differently.

The challenge for this type of research is regulation and funding, and scientists are hoping there will be policy and investment to support these exciting advancements. Dr. Emilia Nordlund, from VTT, told FoodNavigator that this research is leading to a positive disruption in food production techniques. Nordlund is very excited to see different fungi and microbial strains that produce various lipids, proteins, and food ingredients.

Precision fermentation may have been a tough egg to crack, but it is well on its way to making incredible changes within the food industry, sustainability, and the environment.  

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