Companies involved in alternative proteins back their products with large amounts of capital. More than US$ 3 billion was invested by alternative protein companies last year putting the egg sector under pressure.
As a result, the sector needs to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of increasing demand for protein and the rise of alternatives to animal-source proteins. Klaus Kraemer, chief executive of leading nutrition think-tank Sight and Life, said the egg industry needs to look closely at the nutritional value of alternative protein products when compared to eggs and other livestock-derived foods, and also explore their environmental impact. Speaking to International Egg Commission delegates, Dr Kraemer said: “Even though alternative proteins are constantly improving, they still do not meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population. That is why we need to invest in sustainable, animal-source food products, including eggs.”
Egg products and alternative proteins compete for the same market, but marketing budget of the new kid in town is huge. - Photo: Penn Communicatie
Sustainability of alternative proteins
With a total of US$ 6 billion invested in the last decade, Dr Kraemer said it was important that consumers should question the sustainability of alternative proteins, taking into account nutrition, environmental impact and livelihood. “We have to question whether these alternative proteins are really reducing fat and salt consumption and if they are contributing to micronutrient and essential fatty acid intakes. The current alternative protein products are not nutrient dense at all. They are rich in salt, saturated fats and contain a range of technologically required additives, meaning they simply cannot be considered healthy alternatives to eggs,” he told delegates.
Dr Kraemer addresses the economic challenges faced by many in low-resource settings in accessing animal source foods. He explained how scalable, sustainable interventions could increase both availability and affordability of eggs: “The key message is that even in low and middle-income countries, it is possible to set up efficient egg production systems that are good for the malnourished communities, but for the environment as well.”
He argued that consumption of a wide variety of food types delivered the healthiest results: “I think we should combine, in a much better form, the egg with plant-based foods. There is a lot of potential that has not been utilised and I think we should also engage with chefs to develop new recipes, combining eggs with other kinds of foods, making diets more nutritious and healthy.”
Other ways IEC members could build sustainable global egg businesses included tapping into egg powder innovations for humanitarian use and promoting egg products through context-specific and emotion-based marketing.
Last month, UN Nutrition released a discussion paper on Livestock-derived foods and sustainable healthy diets, which emphasised the crucial role eggs play in sustainable balanced human diets. Among its key findings were:
- Eggs provide critical nutrients and protect the heath and wellbeing of vulnerable populations.
- The digestible indispensable amino acid score for protein quality exceeds 100% for eggs, compared to 37% for rice and 45% for wheat.
- Eggs have a high concentration of choline, a micronutrient vital to cell division, growth and membrane signalling.
- Eggs are an important source of vitamins A, B12, D, E and folate, as well as bioavailable minerals, particularly selenium, but also iron and zinc.