After organic rice, lentils and grains, a new fad has found space on egg shelves in city supermarkets. Labelled as enriched or speciality eggs, these come wrapped in attractive cartons that spell out benefits they hold. From herbal eggs, Omega 3, ‘brun’, SPF (Specific Pathogen Free), pasteurised and speciality eggs, the list of enriched or fortified eggs is exhaustive depending on the content and treatment. While layers are claimed to be fed on organic, herbal and other diets, the feed is treated variously to remove toxic, fungal and bacterial content.
There are many claims about these eggs. Low in cholesterol, free from antibiotics, pesticides, bacteria such as salmonella and coliform, enriched with vitamins, carotenoids and DHA, the benefits they seem to offer is endless. However, there is no way one could verify the veracity of the claims. And they come for a premium. For instance, a case of six herbal eggs comes for Rs.60, speciality eggs for Rs.40 when compared to regular poultry eggs that come for Rs.22. Merlyn Raj, owner of city-based Kiara Agro Farm, and distributor for herbal odourless eggs, ‘brun’ and Omega 3 eggs says, “Doctors prescribe organic eggs for a few disorders and these patients come to us for the organic eggs. For instance, there are eggs with Omega 3 Fatty Acid, which are normally found in fish and known to protect people from heart ailments. Also, there are eggs in which the quantity of vitamins and calcium is a lot more when compared to normal eggs. The hens are fed on 16 herbs for the herbal egg,” claims Raj. The firm sources these enriched eggs from Haryana and Patna.
Special feed of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, minerals, antioxidants, herbs such as basil and mint, vitamins and other ingredients used for production of enriched eggs probably account for the steep cost of these speciality eggs. But in a price-sensitive market, it can be a challenge to sell them. “Regular vegetarian eggs from the poultry farm are rich in amino acids, proteins, vitamins, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and carbohydrate, with fats or lipids restricted to the yolk. The nutrient component can be higher in the fortified organic eggs but there is no certification to go with that,” says Sanjeev Chintavar, business manager, National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), India, adding that they make for less than one per cent of the egg produce in the country.
But, the Animal Husbandry Department says there is no proper certification for enriched eggs even as the excessive nutrient content is a cause of worry for consumers. There is also no certification even in the U.S. for organic eggs. “Eggs are taken as health food in the West and it’s common to have four to five for breakfast. Thus organic eggs and other varieties are popular there. Here, the consumption is one or two eggs, hence specialised eggs are not a hot product here. Awareness is restricted to the upmarket segment,” says B.V.K. Raju, director of Q-Mart in Banjara Hills. “The few variants of speciality eggs at the store, such as shakti, active and pro are not on the shelf anymore,” adds Mr. Raju.
Though these eggs are said to be formulated to meet nutritional needs of growing children, recuperating patients, pregnant women and fitness buffs, they currently seem to find a few takers.