The EGG is back
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
'Value-added' varieties are helping fuel its revival
By JENNIFER K. COVINO
The Stamford Advocate
If you're tired of oatmeal and craving an omelet, take heart:
The incredible, edible egg, once vilified as a source of artery-clogging, heart-disease-causing cholesterol, has rolled back into favor.
The latest research isn't an excuse to eat them soft-boiled or scrambled three times a day or to gorge on quiche and souffles, but it does show that healthy people who eat an egg a day are not at greater risk for heart disease. (Diabetics and people whose bodies don't process cholesterol properly need to be extra careful.)
The prime eggs-onerator of the egg is a Harvard University study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999. Researchers followed 120,000 nurses and other medical professionals for a lengthy period of time and found no relationship between egg consumption and heart disease or stroke.
The news has been good for the egg industry.
According to the American Egg Board, the average American ate 253.2 eggs in 2001, compared to 234 eggs in 1991, when health and safety scares kept consumers away by the dozens. (The figure includes the eggs in our cake mixes, premium ice cream, meatloaf and other foods.)
Still, with most of us eating Kellogg's and Post for breakfast, not scrambled eggs and scrapple, per-capita egg consumption is nothing like it once was; in 1945, the average American ate 402 eggs per year.
According to the egg board - the industry group behind the "if it ain't eggs, it ain't breakfast" jingle - eggs are considered second only to mother's milk in the amount and quality of protein they provide.
"Eggs are one of nature's most complete foods," says Nancy Ferriello, a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist. "They contain high-quality protein as well as all the essential amino acids, plus minerals and all the vitamins, with the exception of Vitamin C."
But keep in mind, says Ferriello, that a large egg also contains about 215 milligrams of cholesterol.
Daily egg eaters should cut back on meats, dairy, baked goods and other cholesterol-rich foods if they want to stay within the less-than-300-milligrams per day recommended by the American Heart Association.
In the meantime, eggs themselves are getting healthier, as some companies modify their hens' diets to produce eggs with less cholesterol and less saturated fat, plus Vitamin E and healthy fatty acids called omega-3s.
Chances are you've just begun to notice more of these "designer" or "value-added" eggs nesting next to the commodity eggs at the grocery store.
Better product from
Manette Richardson, director of nutrition services for Eggland's Best, says the company's 18 egg producers across the country feed their hens a patented vegetarian diet that includes rice bran, canola oil and kelp. "I call it natural enrichment vs. fortification," she says.
The result is an egg with 180 milligrams cholesterol as opposed to 215, 25 percent less saturated fat, 100 milligrams of omega-3 and a price tag eight to 10 cents more than a generic egg.
The hens are also fed a yellow corn product that produces a richer, darker yolk that is high in lutein, an antioxidant that promotes eye health and may help prevent macular degeneration.
And Richardson claims the all-vegetarian diet can significantly impact the risk of salmonella poisoning, which hens can contract from diets that include meat scraps, bone meal and other byproducts of food processing.
Another company, Egg Innovations, has quadrupled its business in the past five years with products that include cage-free, organic, omega-3 and vegetarian eggs. Egg Innovations is also moving toward a "free farm" environment in which hens are treated humanely and are not confined to cages.
And, of course, the hens are fed a healthy, controlled diet that includes flax seed and vitamin E.
"When you take out the byproducts, the hormones and the antibiotics and let the birds perform in a better environment, you'll get a considerably better product," says Sam Casamento, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.
According to Casamento, the company's top three markets are California, New York City and New England, and the typical consumer is a 45-year-old woman with above-average income and education.
Egg Innovations products cost $2.49 a dozen compared to about 89 cents a dozen for commodity eggs.
"If you crack open one of our eggs, you'd see a deeper-color yolk that is considerably larger," Casamento says. "You can also clearly see the difference in baked goods. They're much fluffier, with a better taste."
Ferriello says some of these "value-added" eggs may be worth it, particularly those that contain high amounts of omega-3, a fatty acid that may lower serum cholesterol levels, aid in infant brain development, fight depression and reduce the aggression that can constrict arteries and promote the creation of blockages.
"Some eggs contain 100 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids and there are not a lot of sources of omega-3s besides flax seed oil and certain fish," she says.
Scripps Howard News Service
Eggs are getting healthier, as some companies modify their hens' diets to produce eggs with less cholesterol and less saturated fat, plus Vitamin E and healthy fatty acids called
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