Egg Protein Powder - Unscrambling the Truth
Chapter 2 - Ready to Use Egg Protein Powder
Okay, if you are like me, although the do it yourself articles and videos are interesting and maybe you will try it out yourself sometime, you also might want things to be a little easier, as in "somebody else do all the processing for me, please". Why should we spend our valuable free time doing this if there are equally good alternatives ready and waiting for us on the store shelves? Now that we know the basics of how egg protein powder is made, we just need to search for someone who does it well.
The best way to figure out if something is done well is to first understand how something is done.
Large Scale Egg Powder Production
Large scale food production is a lot more involved than the process we use to create egg protein powder at home. Exactly what these practices are is a little difficult to learn. Food production companies are not very transparent in their manufacturing processes. I did some searching and eventually found the most information about how eggs in general are handled in an article regarding the concerns of Kosher consumers. According to the article eggs that are processed in the US are strictly governed. A full-time USDA inspector is assigned to every egg plant, similar to the supervision required for meat packing facilities.
Egg processing is an incredibly large industry. In order to process the huge volumes of eggs needed, eggs are removed from crates and placed on large conveyor belts, washed, and then passed over a bright light source. This process is called candling. What they are looking for in candling are any signs of defects in the egg, such as blood spots that are left when an egg is fertilized, signs of bacterial growth and air spots that indicate the grade of the egg.
If you really want to impress people about your egg knowledge then I highly recommend checking out the United States Standards, Grades, and Weight Classes for Shell Eggs. You will definitely come away from reading this knowing everything there is to know about egg grading. That will make you the life of your next party, no doubt.
The best eggs are those that are clear when candled and have a small air spot. Those are called grade A. What is used for making liquid and powdered egg products are grade B and C eggs.
Once they have been candled, the clean eggs are conveyed into an egg cracking machine. The machine consists of individual egg holders that crack the egg, separating the yolk from the white and dumping each into their respective pipe.
Now the factory has the egg in liquid form, either the yolks and eggs separated or combined, depending on what is necessary for the end product. Next comes pasteurization which is tricky when it comes to eggs. Not enough heat and the bacteria you are trying to kill will survive. Too much heat and the product will curdle like, well, like cooked eggs. This is very important if the end product is supposed to stay liquid. For powdered eggs, the pasteurization and drying may occur in the same part of the process.
Eggs being processed into a powder are piped into a spray drying machine. The liquid product enters and is blasted with hot air at the top of the container. The hot air and drying liquid swirl downward where at the bottom, the now dry egg product is collected and passed on to the next processing stage, which is packaging.
After packaging the egg white powder sits in a hot room for over a week as part of the pasteurization process to kill off any remaining bacteria. An unfortunate side effect of this process is due to the slight amount of natural sugar contained in egg whites. These sugars when heated with protein will create a reaction that causes the product to become brown. We consumers do not want brown egg white powder. In order to avoid this problem, while the egg whites are liquid they are de-sugared prior to drying. This de-sugaring can be done two ways. One method involves culturing the egg whites with bacteria or yeast. The microorganisms will consume the sugar in the eggs. The second method is to use an enzyme called glucose oxidase which breaks the sugar into new components that will not cause the browning reaction.
Unless we know which factory makes the egg white powder we will not know which process they use to remove the sugar from the egg whites. I mention this not because I think this step of processing is necessarily unhealthy. Hey, I don't want my egg white powder to be brown, so I am not opposed to this. The action of glucose oxidase produces hydrogen pyroxide which is a good bacteriocide but it has to be removed by a second enzyme, catalase, that coverts hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water. We can say that this leads to perhaps a more stable product that has a longer shelf life, but we must also say that this is changing the product. This is what food processing is - the change of a food product from its natural state.
This clearly illustrates how this simple processing of the eggs we could do at home becomes something much more complex when done on a large scale and adds something into the final product that would not be there in small scale processing. This will add to the cost of the product and also it can introduce changes so that the food product may not digest the same as its unprocessed counterpart. What if we are somehow sensitive to the yeast or the new components the glucose oxidase produces. It could very well matter to those who are sensitive. Maybe most of us will not be affected, but keep this in mind if you can eat eggs but have problems with egg white protein powders.
So now that it turns out large scale egg powder production is complicated, just what are the questions we egg consumers should be asking about the products we might consume? I go into these details in Chapter 3.
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