Mushroom proteins as an alternative to powdered egg whites

Research carried out by experts from the University of Helsinki and the Finnish VTT Technical Research Center has made it possible to develop mushroom proteins that have been genetically modified to produce ovalbumin, one of the main proteins in egg white. Experts consider it to be a alternative to powdered egg whites which is more sustainable and more respectful with the environment.

It is considered that ovalbumin produced by genetically modified fungi would reduce much of the environmental burden associated with poultry production, since raising chickens for egg production generates a large amount of greenhouse gases, increased zoonotic diseases resulting from intensive chicken and hen rearing, reduction of the availability of resources such as water and also contributes to deforestation and loss of biodiversity. In this sense, it is worth re-reading this post in which the consequences of the activities and procedures of the poultry industry are exposed for the environment.

According to experts, powdered egg white is a commonly used ingredient in the food industry whose demand increases year after year. This situation raises questions about ethics and sustainability for what we have previously commented, hence the increase in efforts to find more sustainable alternatives, such as the so-called cellular agriculture or precision fermentation, whose purpose is to produce recombinant proteins. It is a biotechnological solution with which the production of animal proteins can be replaced by a microbial production system to produce specific proteins.

Researchers comment that more than half of the protein powder content of egg white is ovalbumin, and they have managed to produce ovalbumin from the mesophilic and filamentous fungus Trichoderma reesei. They comment that the gene responsible for the production of ovalbumin is inserted in fungi In order for them to produce and secrete the same protein that laying hens produce, the protein is subsequently separated from the rest of the components and it is dried to produce the final product.

alternatives to egg protein

They explain that ovalbumin produced by fungi uses 90% less soil than conventional production, and reduces greenhouse gas production by up to 55%, a percentage that can be increased to 72% when production is based on low-carbon energy. Currently the products obtained from cell culture need more electricity than traditional agricultural products, this type of energy being the main burden of the environmental impact generated, however, the amount of ingredients such as glucose, necessary for the production of ovalbumin from of microorganisms, it is significantly lower compared to traditional production.

The study shows the great potential and the sustainable nature of this technology for the production of sustainable proteins, greater when low-carbon energy sources are used. However, the fact that the alternative to egg white is produced transgenic mushrooms it can elicit rejection from consumers. There is no talk of legal issues, of how the market could be approached, of whether the results in final products would be the same as with traditional protein, or would they vary, etc. It can be said that this is a job that is in its early stages and there is still much to do. You can know all the details of the investigation through this article published on the website of the University of Helsinki, and in this other published in the scientific journal Nature Food.

Photo 2 | Marco

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