There’s a new answer to the conundrum of which came first, the chicken or the egg.
In this case it is a test tube, a food science laboratory… and the desire to create a vegan version of the hard-boiled egg.
The V-egg-ie appears to be the perfect recreation of the real thing, including a vivid yellow yolk, but it has never been anywhere near a chicken.
The V-egg-ie appears to be the perfect recreation of the real thing, including a vivid yellow yolk, but it has never been anywhere near a chicken
It is made from a base of proteins extracted from unspecified legumes – possibly soya beans – plus vegetable oils, a gelling agent and a type of salt which mimics the taste of an egg.
As well as being suitable for vegans, there is none of the cholesterol found in a real egg.
The vegan egg was created by student food scientists in Italy and promises to be something of a money maker amid an astonishing rise in vegetarianism and veganism.
The inventors have already patented the idea and are in talks with major food companies around the world on how to bring it to the mass market.
Celebrities such as Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, actor Brad Pitt, and singers Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez have talked about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
At the same time, England footballer Jermain Defoe is a high-profile vegan, as is Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams.
The team of four behind the V-egg-ie are coming to the end of a Principles of Food Formulation Course, part of a master’s degree in science and food technology at Udine University. Group spokesman Francesca Zuccolo said they spent 18 months of trial and error before achieving the correct consistency, shape and flavour.
The precise recipe and process involved is a valuable secret, however Miss Zuccolo said: ‘The egg is made from a base of legumes, from which we have extracted proteins, vegetable oils, a gelling agent and a special salt that also serves to ensure a taste that is similar to that of a hen egg.
As well as being suitable for vegans, there is none of the cholesterol found in a real egg, like this one
Our goal was to get as close as possible to a hard-boiled egg.’ She said it had been particularly difficult to match the rubbery consistency of real egg white.
Miss Zuccolo said: ‘It will be of interest for food companies that already produce products destined for vegan consumers or functional foods.
‘It can be sold in organic, vegetarian and vegan groceries, but also in any supermarket, given the increasing demand for such products by consumers.’
While the team has refused to name the legumes involved, they are most likely to be some form of bean rich in protein, such as soya.
Miss Zuccolo is well placed to know how close the vegan egg is to the real thing as she is a farmer’s daughter. ‘I know what a chicken coop is and how a hen egg is made. For me this product is not just a discovery, it’s an idea,’ she said.
Monica Anese, the professor who leads the course at the Italian university, said: ‘For some years I have asked my students to imagine and then to make a new food product that does not exist on the market. This is, however, the first time that, during the degree in science and food technology, you get to patent a new product. The university’s patent attorney has already been contacted by some large companies in the industry. We will meet soon.’