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Jewish World Review
December 12, 2013 / 9 Teves, 5774
Will Eggs Become Obsolete?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the unemployment office.
That joke may come true, if Josh Tetrick, founder of the San Francisco-based startup company Hampton Creek Foods, has his way.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Tetrick regards eggs as a victim of their own success - too wildly popular (1.8 trillion laid globally each year) to be sustainable. Tetrick (backed by investors such as Bill Gates) is pouring Manhattan Project-like resources into perfecting a plant-based protein product that he predicts will make eggs obsolete.
One of my earliest, dearest memories is of watching a baby chick hatch in the loft of my parents' barn, so the article certainly caught my interest.
Tetrick denounces a natural product once advertised as "the incredible, edible egg" largely because the production of poultry feed is supposedly a vastly inefficient use of resources such as land, water and fossil fuel.
Thank goodness we still have a few inefficient things in this fast-paced world. Our election system is inefficient, but Tetrick and his backers would probably rather not be told, "Thank you for donating your invention to the state, comrades."
And our hit-and-miss courtship rituals are hardly textbook examples of productivity. But unless Tetrick won his wife by paying her father three yaks and a case of eggless protein goop, maybe he should stop crowing the virtues of efficiency.
I cannot fault Tetrick's humanitarian goal of providing protein for hungry people in emerging nations, but the way he simultaneously rides the coattails of and disses eggs in particular grates on my nerves.
It's like a supermarket chain executive at a ribbon cutting announcing to the world, "Our new self-service lane means only an idiot would turn to Employee of the Month Joe Shlabotnik for help. Self-service lane, we need a cleanup on Aisle 7. I said, self-service lane -oh pooh!"
I remember when protein production was just a one-on-one matter of my bachelor uncle Vernon and his amazing rapport with his hens. Oblivious to adages such as "Too many cooks spoil the broth," Tetrick has turned the project over to a battalion of biochemists, food scientists and software engineers. Waiting in the wings are a community organizer and a soybean whisperer.
How times change! I shudder to think of the rich tradition of eggs being consigned to the dust heap of history. What will we do without Easter eggs, Humpty Dumpty, "egg on his face," "egghead" and countless other cultural references?
Once Tetrick disproves "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs," I fear the power-mad entrepreneur will be seen leading horses to water and laughing maniacally as he forces the poor equines to drink.
Who am I kidding? The more things change, the more they stay the same. One of our distant ancestors had to be the first person to decide to eat that white, shelled object that came out of a chicken's rear, and now we're on the verge of serving as human guinea pigs as we ingest experimental witches' brews that could have side effects coming out the wazoo.
Things seem bleak for eggs, but I beg the industry to hang in there.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the brooder light. Do not go OVER EASY into that good night."
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Controversial author Harlan Ellison once described the work of Mr. Tyree as "wonkily extrapolative" and said his mind "works like a demented cuckoo clock." Tyree generated a particular buzz on the Internet with his column spoofing real-life Christian nudist camps. A lifelong small-town southerner, he graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications.
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© 2013, Danny Tyree