Due to an outbreak of avian flu, eggs have become a hot topic in the news and a hot commodity at the grocery store. At its height, the inflation of eggs went up to an average of $4.25 for a dozen Grade A eggs in December 2022, but Californians saw eggs for more than $7 in January 2023. For comparison, the average price of a dozen eggs was $1.79 in December 2021. Inflation has encouraged many people to consider the actual cost of farming eggs and caring for hens as well as egg alternatives in both cooking and baking.

Egg-like products

Egg alternatives have taken off with a wave of widely available vegan products. One of the most popular is Just Egg, a refrigerated liquid product. It has only one gram of protein less than a real egg and no cholesterol, but you cannot fry it up as you can eggs. Their recipe index includes food such as omelets and French toast, where you want to taste and/or have the texture of eggs, as well as bread and fried cauliflower.

Related: The first carbon-neutral eggs in the world drop in US

Bob’s Red Mill produces a dried egg replacer. They tout this product as a vegan baking essential as well as gluten-free, addressing a wide audience with dietary restrictions. The only thing you have to do to activate this dry egg replacer is add water. A 12-ounce bag replaces 34 eggs, so at only $4.99, it is also better for your pocketbook. However, this is not a breakfast egg substitute. It was purely invented for cooking and baking.

Other companies, including grocery store brands, have created their own dry and liquid egg substitutes as the market has grown. While many children outgrow egg allergies by the age of five, these egg substitutes are addressing allergies as well as veganism. With these products widely available, consumers are free to try substitutes without having to go to a specialty grocery store.

Egg substitutes

Eggs do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to baking. They contribute as a leavening and binding agent, but they also affect the texture, color and flavor of the dish. Most baking cookbooks advise against egg substitutions, but with allergies, dietary restrictions, inflation and climate change, we are going to have to turn to new ingredients. Eggs, luckily, are one of the easiest things to replace when baking.

For many years vegans have substituted tofu for animal protein, and scrambled tofu is an easy egg replacement. Simply season the tofu to your liking and mash as you mix the tofu around the pan, but it only works for one version of eggs and only if you like tofu.

In testing various egg replacements, The Kitchn found that the top two replacements when baking vanilla muffins were carbonated water and a combination of baking powder, oil and water. The latter solution produced slightly crisper muffin tops than other substitutes, but was the easiest to make with on-hand pantry staples. Carbonated water was the surprising solution and produced a supposedly indistinguishable result. Carbonated water acts as a leavening agent while also adding moisture and trapping air bubbles to create a fluffy baked good.

Other pantry-staple substitutes include applesauce, mashed bananas, nut butter and aquafaba, or the liquid in a can of chickpeas. These each work differently, but you can begin your substitutions slowly one recipe at a time. Substitutions are personal choices that depend on what food you have on hand and what flavor you want to add to a dish.

The future of sustainable eggs

Between the egg shortage, climate change, and the overwhelming evidence of poor living conditions for chickens, the egg industry will change.

On a small scale, individual farms are trying to do better. Dutch poultry farm Kipster has been producing eggs with a focus on hen welfare using a carbon-neutral plan. Their barn is designed to allow the hens to move, play, and experience a more natural environment. The chickens are fed high-quality food produced from imperfect human food that would have gone to the landfill. Additionally, Kipster cuts its carbon footprint further by packaging and delivering its eggs itself. Kipster is now producing eggs in the United States under the same carbon-neutral plan.

Obtaining eggs from a neighbor or a local farmer’s market is another great way to reduce the transportation for the eggs you consume. These sources are also subject to disease the same way industrial farmers have been, but small-scale farms and local shopping are more sustainable in the long run. 

Recently, you may have pondered establishing your own chicken coop. In 2012, the French village of Pince decided to hand out laying hens to any resident who wanted them in an effort to reduce waste. A few Belgian towns had the same plan in 2010, and it seems to be working. Neighbors watch neighbors’ chickens, and more people are diverting food waste from the landfill by feeding it to their chickens. Again, spreading disease is still possible with your own chickens, but you might also see a few long-term gains.

The future of eggs is complicated. Whether you have an allergy, a dietary restriction, or just want to try something new, there are egg alternatives readily available for consumption. There are also many ways to eat eggs that do not come from industrial farms. Regardless of your solution, finding egg substitutes that you enjoy will prepare you for the next time egg prices skyrocket.

Lead image via Pexels