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As real egg prices stay high, substitutes are having a moment

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average national retail price for a dozen large eggs is $3.59. Last year, it was just $1.72.

MINNEAPOLIS — It's no secret that egg prices are really high — if you can even find them in the first place. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says prices, in some cases, are more than double what they were this time last year.

Enter the egg alternative that's taking this moment to shine.

It's also creating a business opportunity for AcreMade CEO Nicole Atchison, makers of a new, plant-based egg 

"We see this as a food evolution, not a five-year, plant-based fad," said Atchison. "We see it as, how do we start transforming the food system?"

The plant-based egg is made mostly of yellow field peas and doesn't contain any of the top allergens, according to Atchison. The powder in a bag is mixed with water and equivalent to 12 eggs.

"It scrambles; you can make an omelet, you can use it in a cake or cookies," said Atchison. "It's got all the versatility of an egg, but it's shelf stable."

Making plant-based products comes easy to Atchison, whose family has manufactured ingredients like starch, fiber and pea protein for the last 30 years. Its pea protein plant is the largest one in operation in North America. 

The plant-based food market is gaining traction, and that includes eggs.

"We spent a lot of time, I would say, tinkering in the lab, trying all different sorts of ingredients and combinations that would give that right experience, that you can have a pourable egg, but it firms up and scrambles in the pan," said Atchison. "It's also how it feels in your mouth, how you chew it."

High feed prices, labor shortages and the avian flu are all impacting egg prices, which may not come down for a while still. Atchison says the flu, in particular, has exposed security risks in the food system. She says it's all the more reason to make the food supply chain more diverse, sustainable and safe. 

"The more in-tune you get with the food system and your own body, it starts to change your relationship with food because you're able to address health outcomes before they start," said Atchison.

Other egg alternatives include mung beans, applesauce and avocado puree, especially if you're avoiding eggs for other reasons like animal welfare, environmental concerns or if you have an egg allergy.

An egg allergy is the second most common allergy in children, but studies show about 70% of kids will outgrow it by the age of 16. 

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