Dr S Sarendi Walling
Today in this fast changing world one of the major issues concerning our daily life is what we eat as we are more conscious of our health this days. Amongst non-vegetarian food items, egg is one of the most easily available food items that are relished by both young and old. One of the nutrient content in our food that we try to avoid is cholesterol and fats and egg contains cholesterol. Therefore, people with higher cholesterol level in their blood try to avoid eating eggs even though it is nutritious. Today due to advancement in science and technology in poultry sector there is an emerging era in food science especially in manipulating the composition of egg nutritional composition for the well being of human health.
What is Designers Egg?
Designers egg are those eggs in which the nutrient content of the egg has been modified from the standard egg and which may contain higher vitamin and minerals, lower cholesterol, higher omega fatty acids and added pharmaceutical compounds.
How designers egg are made or produced
Poultry egg consumers are in need of poultry products which are free from drug and pesticides residues along with other harmful components. One way to modify egg quality is to manipulate the diet of the hen such that the desired compounds eventually find their way into the egg. If a food, such as the egg is nutritionally modified it is referred to as designer or functional food (American Dietetic Association, 1995). Thus “designer egg” are those in which the content has been modified from the standard egg. Producing a designers egg need proper information since PUFA (Poly Unsaturated fatty acid) is highly unsaturated and unstable resulting in yolk undergoing rancidity quickly which may lead to off odors that may discourage consumers. Incorporation of natural antioxidants like vitamin E, selenium and carotenoid pigments in feeds or ration of the laying hen will overcome this problem. In India a designer egg was developed with Herbal Enriched Designer Egg (HEDE) enriched with omega acids, selenium, carotenoids, vitamins, minerals and herbal active compounds depending on the herbs fed to the hens. These eggs have lower cholesterol level by 25% and consuming such eggs was reported to lower bad cholesterol and increase in good cholesterol.
Some of the feeds fed to chickens to enhance the composition of eggs are garlic, onion and their leaves, sugar beet grape pulp, spirulina, marigold petals, alfalfa, red pepper, basil leaves, turmeric powder, curry leaves, citrus pulp, flax seed, canola oils, insects, worms, weeds, fenugreek, brewery waste, yeast, fermented products, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radish leaves etc.
Composition of designer’s egg
It is said that you are what you eat and the same goes for the chicken eggs where the composition of the eggs is affected by what the hen eats. For instance, eggs with high omega-3 fatty acids content in the yolk are produced when hens are fed with feeds containing high omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the composition of designers eggs are-
1. High vitamin content: It contains higher amount of vitamin A and E which may vary with the diet of hen as well as transferring capacity of different vitamin with different efficacy of the hen.
2. High mineral content: The egg contains selenium, iodine, zinc, copper and chromium which is achieved by feeding them to the laying hen in their feeds. The iodine content may help to medicate the iodine deficiency existing in many developing countries including India.
3. Low cholesterol: A chicken egg contains approximately 200 to 220 mg of cholesterol. Supplementation of chromium to laying hen diets of concentration less than 1 ppm have been reported to lower cholesterol content of the egg. Low cholesterol egg can also be produced by feeding an all-vegetarian diet rich in protein and fiber fortified with vitamin E.
4. Fat and fatty acid profile: The fatty acid content of the eggs can be altered by including fat source in the feeds of the chicken such as safflower oil, marine algae, fish oil, fish meal and vegetable oil which increases the omega-3 fatty acid contents in the yolk. So, having a designer’s egg as breakfast can be beneficial as it contains omega-3 fatty acids which helps in proper functioning and development of brain, lower heart attack chances and reduced inflammation of joints.
5. Pharmaceutical alterations: Biotechnology has advanced to such a level that it can genetically manipulate or modify chickens that can produce eggs containing insulin for the treatment of diabetic patients.
6. Biological compounds: There is an ongoing research to produce eggs that contains antibodies against bacteria and viruses. In the near future, we expect designer’s eggs that contain anti-venom against snake venom.
7. Alteration in pigment content: The pigment of the egg yolk varies with dietary content of their feeds. Feeding plant source such as marigold, chilly, corn, blue green algae, spirulina etc can increase the caratenoids of the yolk which is good for our eye sight and can reduce the risk of blindness in elderly.
As the market is driven by demand of consumers the availability of designers egg as of now may be low or negligible. On the other hand, a poultry farmer producing a designer’s egg with standard specification may earn a higher income by selling the eggs as consumers might be willing to pay higher price for such produce. Research and analysis for their commercial production and marketing of this new generation eggs or products can bring positive changes for a healthier society. In the context of Nagaland scenario there is an amble scope as majority of the population are non-vegetarian. The rich bio-diversity of natural flora and fauna found in Nagaland may contribute to better egg quality enhanced with beneficial ingredients. As of now, our local chicken that forages on natural vegetations may be producing eggs that are heartier than those commercial farm produced eggs that may contain hormones, antibiotics, drugs residues etc.
(The writer is Asst, Chief Technical Officer (Animal Science), Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Mokokchung)