Eat Just first launched its plant-based egg in 2019. This vegan egg product comes in liquid form in pourable 12-ounce bottles and can be used anywhere you would use whisked eggs. Having tried this product a few times before, Just Egg scrambles and tastes like real eggs and works perfectly well in omelettes and fried rice recipes. The main ingredient, mung beans, has a much lower emission rate than chicken eggs. However, the environmental impact of the manufacturing, packaging and transportation processes are higher than what Eat Just wants us to believe. Although I appreciate Eat Just offering the food market more sustainable ingredient options, I urge Eat Just to work on the transparency of the rest of the production chain to avoid greenwashing.
Just Egg is made of mung beans, which give it the taste and texture of a chicken egg when scrambled. A serving of Just Egg (3 tablespoons) is packed with a hearty 5.5g of protein, which is similar to a medium-sized egg. Along with mung beans, Just Egg contains various vegan ingredients. Turmeric extract gives the product its egg-like yellow colour, while dehydrated onion gives Just Egg the savoury taste. The most controversial ingredient is canola oil. Canola oil has conflicting findings on whether it is good for our health. Some consider canola oil as healthy as it is low in saturated fat, but high in polyunsaturated omega 3 fat. However, others see canola oil as highly processed, which increases the risks of heart diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. The health risks prompted countries such as Denmark to ban its use in food products. Yet, I am not too bothered as consuming canola oil in moderation should not damage our health at large. Just Egg also lacks essential nutrients like vitamin D and vitamin B12 that are found in regular eggs. Vitamin D regulates the calcium in our body, keeping our bones and teeth healthy, while vitamin B12 is essential in red blood cell production. I am relieved to know that Eat Just is developing a vitamin B-12 fortification to improve the nutrition of Just Egg. It is great to see Eat Just trying to improve the products’ content and address specific nutrient deficiencies.
Product affordability and accessibility is crucial to creating widespread impact. In early 2020, Eat Just lowered the suggested retail price of a 12-ounce bottle (8 servings) from 7.99 USD to 4.99 USD. The price reduction is made possible by the increased efficiency in sourcing, protein processing and manufacturing. However, Just Egg is still much more expensive than regular eggs. 8 eggs cost roughly 1 USD in Walmart, which is almost 5 times cheaper than Just Egg. Unfortunately, Eat Just still has a long way to go before being able to provide a cost-effective and sustainable source of protein in the market.
Just Egg is named one of Time magazine’s “10 Smartest Sustainable Products of 2018,” and was recognised as a technology pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Just Egg was selected against criteria comprising innovation, impact, leadership, growth, and funding. I believe Just Egg earned a spot in ‘impact’ because of its reduced environmental burdens when compared to conventional eggs. The vegan liquid egg uses 98% less water, since mung beans are not water-intensive. Just Egg also uses 86% less land and has 93% lower carbon footprint. Resource usage is more effective since inputs are directly invested in the beans instead of going through multiple layers before reaching the actual egg, like irrigation and cropland usage for chicken feeds.
Just Egg also addresses other pressing issues within the animal agriculture industry, notably animal abuse. Chickens in factory farms are often caged in a dirty pen, never see the light of day, and have minimal space to walk around. More commonly, male chicks are slaughtered almost immediately after they are born because they are not able to lay eggs, leaving no commercial value to the market apart from their flesh. I am eager to avoid food that may potentially come from cruel farming practices. It would be even better if the Just Egg is farmed sustainably. Currently, Eat Just does not require its farmers to cultivate their crops organically. This is not ideal as agrochemicals often pollute the surrounding environment and disturb the ecosystem’s balance. For example, pests often develop into superbugs and do more harm to the crops when they gain resistance to pesticides.
The mung beans are sourced from over 50 countries. Eat Just’s 2020 sustainability report mentions that they are sourcing mung beans ‘equitably’ by supporting farms of many sizes across the world. I hope Eat Just can elaborate on the ways they are supporting the farmers ‘equitably’ - is it by purchasing from small-holder farmers, or engaging in fair trade? Addressing the vague descriptions from the report can give concerned consumers like me a peace of mind.
While the main ingredient comes from multiple continents, the vegan egg is centrally manufactured in Minnesota, USA. Although Eat Just never reveals its transport emission data, the long distance between the farms and manufacturing plants implies high transport emission. Moreover, the 93% reduction in greenhouse gas and 98% reduction in water usage Eat Just claims does not include the carbon emissions from the manufacturing process. For example, the process of separating the protein extract from mung beans uses a substantial amount of water and energy.
Just Egg is liquid and comes in 355 ml plastic bottles. Plastics are not biodegradable, making them impossible to disappear entirely. Much plastic debris is swallowed by farm animals or fish who mistake it for food, and these animals eventually find their way onto our dinner plate. In comparison, most chicken eggs are packed in low-grade cartons, which are decomposable within a month. Eat Just has devoted long paragraphs praising the environmental benefits of mung beans, but they should also include the environmental impact of the entire production chain to prevent greenwashing.
Eat Just was formerly known as Hampton Creek. Launched in 2011, the company is worth over 1 billion USD. Eat Just’s vegan food business is currently sold in over 20,000 retail outlets and 1,000 catering places. Eat Just’s products can also be found worldwide, including in China, North America and Europe.
Eat Just’s history hasn’t been without controversies. The company experienced a failed coup to delegate power from the CEO to investors. This resulted in several executives being fired, and shortly after, the resignation of the entire director board. Although the company was able to rebrand itself successfully, I am still concerned about the potential underlying managerial problems Eat Just may have. As a consumer, I am also disappointed that Just Eat does not want investors to have a bigger influence on the development of the company and its products.
Now, Eat Just aims to produce food that “nourishes our bodies and strengthens the planet.” The former has been achieved by bringing sustainable protein to the food industry, including vegan egg, vegan mayonnaise, vegan ranch, and vegan meat. Regarding the latter goal, Eat Just has reaffirmed its commitment to source sustainability in its 2020 sustainability impact report. For example, they only purchase from sources that are in current agricultural production. This means that Eat Just discourages deliberate land clearing and destruction of high ecological habitats to produce more farmland. I hope that Eat Just can continue, or even enhance its effort in protecting biodiversity, controlling greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting sustainable farming.