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First vegan eggs hatched in a lab, but what are they made of?

Bowl of eggs
Bowl of eggs   -   Copyright  Unsplash
By Maeve Campbell

Two French women have come up with a revolutionary, vegan alternative to eggs.

Les Merveillœufs, a play on 'merveilleux' meaning marvellous and 'oeufs' translating as eggs, have just been formulated by biologists at Paris Ecole de Biologie Industrielle.

Can they be used in the same way as hens' eggs? What is the shell made of? What do they taste like? The two founders, Philippine Soulères and Sheryline Thavisouk, answered all our questions.

1. Can you tell us exactly what goes into the Merveillœufs? What are the key ingredients?

The definitive ingredients list is still coming together and will be revealed in the coming months. But the research we have done is primarily based on legumes. The issue we now face is finding the exact balance of ingredients to create the right formula.

2. When do you plan for the Merveillœufs to be on sale?

Les Merveillœufs will be on sale as soon as our tests receive the green light, so that we can guarantee they are nutritionally viable. Our aim in to make them commercially available by midway through 2020.

3. Will we be able to cook Merveillœufs in the same way we would hens’ eggs? (e.g. scrambled, fried, boiled, whipped egg whites in a dessert)

Merveillœufs can be eaten in exactly the same way as hens’ eggs, for example in an omelette or as raw materials in cooking. In terms of whipping up egg whites in baking, this is proving difficult at the moment but we fully intend to rise to the challenge.

4. What is the shell made of?

The shell is still in the development process. We are in the midst of talking to experts at the moment to make sure we develop the most eco-friendly egg shell possible.

5. Will you be able to mass produce the Merveillœufs so that they can be sold in supermarkets?

Yes, that is our long-term objective, to ensure the product is easily available to as many as consumers as possible.

6. Do Merveillœufs have the same amount of fat content and protein you would find in normal hens’ eggs ?

Both the fat content and amount of protein is slightly lower in Merveillœufs (about 10% less than in a hens’ egg). Our consumers are very mindful of their protein intake in general, so we take that into consideration.

7. Are their nutritional profiles the same?

Apart from the differences we have already covered, Merveillœufs are less calorific than hens’ eggs and contain dietary fibres.

8. Can you describe what they taste like?

It is tricky to describe what an egg tastes like in general, as the flavour is so subtle. But the Merveillœufs taste slightly more sulphurous.

9. Which part of the hens’ egg was most difficult to reproduce?

When creating the Merveillœufs, the most complicated aspect was making sure they could match up when it comes to cooking. Hens’ eggs are used in such a variety of different ways, which means they are hard to replicate.

10. Why is it so difficult to find a dietary substitute for eggs?

Eggs are in everything, so trying to find a replacement product can be a challenge. The egg is also very versatile as a foodstuff, so it is hard to find a substitute that can be so flexible.