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Living With Climate Change: Adding protein to diets via fermentation is one solution to egg shortages and climate change

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There’s a method that creates dietary protein without using animals. Or even plants.

Food technology pioneer The EVERY Company is creating egg whites, supplemental protein powders and more, leaning on precision fermentation to “brew” the same benefits of protein to cook with or add to drinks, without the climate impacts associated with animal agriculture.

And now, EVERY has some star power behind its disruptive business. Film actors Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway will leverage their personal convictions favoring diets that rely less on animal protein into investments in EVERY, the company exclusively told MarketWatch Wednesday.

These advancements hit at a time that COVID-19 exposed the vulnerabilities of relying on a global food supply chain that can suffer major gaps and backups instead of favoring local and regional options, or technological solutions. For eggs, in particular, they’ve led a long list of surging food costs since the beginning of 2022. Egg experts said an avian influenza outbreak that has severely limited the supply is the leading cause of high prices that have stretched into early 2023.

While there’s technology behind the rapid commercialization of fermented protein, EVERY is quick to point out that nature is still the driver. And lab-perfected natural food is a far cry from the evolution of factory farms over several decades in the United States, which has pushed much of agriculture from small businesses into massive conglomerates, says EVERY’s CEO Arturo Elizondo.

The company worked for seven years on research and development, and only in the past 12 months has rolled out three novel offerings: EVERY Protein, EVERY EggWhite and EVERY Pepsin, a digestive enzyme that helps break down larger proteins.

“These proteins make me optimistic that we can make a difference, both in future-proofing our fragile food system and addressing essential human nourishment needs as the technology scales,” said Chastain, in a statement.

U.S. actress and producer Jessica Chastain arrives for the 80th annual Golden Globe Awards this week.

AFP/Getty Images

Investments in platforms like EVERY’s and others looking to advance “Food 3.0” totaled $1.7 billion in 2021, triple the amount injected in 2020, according to The Good Food Institute. EVERY itself has attracted $230 million in investment since its launch.

According to The Good Food Institute, the world needs to embrace “a world where alternative proteins are no longer alternative” if we are to feed as many people as possible and with less environmental impact.

Read: Popular culinary site Epicurious cuts new beef recipes in a ‘pro-planet’ move — its users didn’t complain

Underscoring this sentiment, a recent study by researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany found that developed nations must reduce per-capita traditional meat consumption by at least 75% to meet global climate goals. Set more than a decade ago in Paris, global leaders have said the planet must aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or risk intensifying what are already signs of warming, acidic oceans and more severe weather disasters. Developed nations including the U.S. have said they aim for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.

The challenge lies in getting healthful protein to a growing global population, with some people associating animal protein access to increased wealth and food variety. Animals put off their own emissions through methane gas. Plus, feeding them often requires emissions-intensive farming operations that use water and fossil fuel-powered
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equipment. That same argument might be made for the footprint of major grains, both edible by humans and those ground into animal feed.

MarketWatch sat down with Elizondo to talk about company growth and uses for protein fermentation. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

MarketWatch: Talk please about the significance of having celebrity backing. How does their involvement convince consumers of the potential benefits of sourcing protein alternatively? 

Elizondo: It’s an honor to have The EVERY Company join Anne’s and Jessica’s sustainability- and innovation-driven investment portfolios. Ultimately, their confidence is a validation of progress and vision as we pioneer a new category of alternative proteins and chart the course for what’s next in food.

Beyond, Anne and Jessica’s investments validate the desire and need for solutions to our most pressing problems, including developing a resilient supply chain that can provide people with healthy foods while limiting the impact on our planet.

“Foods made with fermentation are growing in number, we’re unlocking production scale with leading partners like AB InBev, and nature-equivalent alternative proteins are becoming inevitable. I’d like to see us set the table for tomorrow with bold ambition, empathy and urgency as we look ahead,” says EVERY CEO Arturo Elizondo.

EVERY

MarketWatch: How does fermentation ultimately look and perform once in consumer hands, meaning is it added as a powder or liquid to traditional dishes? Can it be formulated to be prepared much as traditional protein is? Take me into the kitchen, if you will…

Elizondo: We recently launched several novel animal-free proteins following seven years of deep R&D, and we’ve demonstrated their versatility across a range of applications including cold-pressed juice, baked goods such as macarons, and the world’s first protein-boosted hard juice.

Precision fermentation has been around for some time and is similar to the process of making rennet for cheese (a protein ingredient found in 80-90% of store-bought cheeses). We take the same DNA sequence that would be found in an animal protein and insert it into a special strain of yeast that can “read” the DNA and replicate it intracellularly. Similar to the way beer and wine are brewed, we add sugar, and the yeast uses this energy to kick-start fermentation. The end result is nature-equivalent protein, made without using a single animal. Proteins are brewed then spray-dried to powder form, which is used in the same way that ready-to-mix powdered protein and egg whites are used in foods and beverages.

We brought to life the world’s first nature-equivalent, animal-free egg white —EVERY EggWhite — in the holy grail of baking applications: the French macaron. We were able to showcase our capacity to create the same height, foam stability, aeration, binding and texture required for the most challenging baking scenarios. 

Proteins are brewed then spray-dried to powder form, which is used in the same way that ready-to-mix powdered protein and egg whites are used in foods and beverages.

EVERY

MarketWatch: What’s next as far as getting these products into more hands?

Elizondo: Fermentation-derived proteins are commercialized now and will be more widely available to consumers as we continue to scale our manufacturing.

We’re currently scaling up production with BioBrew from [beverage maker] AB InBev
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the world’s largest fermentation company. EVERY is well positioned to capitalize on market gaps in non-animal protein delivery, as demand for such innovations currently outstrips supply.

Read: This sugar alternative made from discarded plants boosts your fiber intake and is kinder to Earth

MarketWatch: We continue to see inflation and supply chain shortages impact food. Eggs in California (and elsewhere) jump to mind right now. Talk a bit how technology and alternatives might be an answer to these shortages.

Elizondo: Across the world, access to protein is a major challenge. Our food system is broken, with factors such as geopolitical strife, avian flus and the climate crisis accelerating challenges. As we look ahead, global population pressures, income growth and urbanization will increase demand for protein, while the effects of the climate crisis will constrain supply. Fermentation offers an incredible solution to these problems, with the crucial distinction of offering a secure supply of nutritious protein without fear of disruption from viral or bacterial outbreaks.

2022 saw the deadliest avian influenza outbreak in U.S. history, with nearly 60 million chickens lost in the U.S. alone. This latest news, coupled with the growing climate crisis, means it’s more apparent than ever that we need real solutions for alternative proteins, now. EVERY has made incredible strides commercializing animal-free proteins made in fermenters, without chickens.

As we scale up, we’ll approach cost parity with traditional sources of animal protein such as eggs, then surpass this key milestone–and this is when consumers will truly benefit, alongside the planet and animals.

Don’t miss: Cheery climate news? Cancer-linked ozone hole blamed on hairspray and A/C continues to close.

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