Eggs are an inexpensive and versatile staple in our diet, packed with a wealth of vitamins, minerals and protein. Eating eggs as part of a balanced healthy meal is, in general, good for our body and numerous studies have also shown the positive health attributes that eggs bring to the table.
Fuelled by rising awareness about the health benefits of eggs, global production of eggs has witnessed rapid growth in the past decade. Fast-paced increase in population and growing consumer preference for a high-protein diet have also contributed to the growth trajectory.
According to data from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), total egg production worldwide has grown from 61.7 million tonnes in 2008 to 76.7 million tonnes in 2018 – a notable increase of 24 per cent in 10 years.
New UN Nutrition report – Livestock-derived foods and sustainable healthy diets – has also emphasised the value of eggs in a balanced diet, highlighting how livestock-derived foods influence growth and brain development, as well as metabolism.
“Eggs play a crucial role in healthy and sustainable diets, thanks to their significant nutritional qualities and low environmental impact,” says Suresh Chitturi, Chairman, International Egg Commission (IEC), the organisation that represents the egg industry globally and is the founder of World Egg Day initiative.
“However, as an industry, we have often been at the mercy of sensationalised headlines, which have led to misconceptions about this fantastic product. To unleash the industry’s full potential, it is essential that we unite together to tell our story, supported by scientific facts, and develop the nutritional reputation of the egg and position eggs for health on an international scale,” Chitturi adds.
He is now spearheading a 10-year plan for the IEC to accelerate global average consumption from a current average of 165 eggs to 365 eggs per annum.
To unleash the industry’s full potential, it is essential that we unite together to tell our story, supported by scientific facts, and develop the nutritional reputation of the egg and position eggs for health on an international scale.
“IEC’s ‘Vision 365’ will support the industry to promote the power of the egg as an affordable, nutritious and low impact food source, by facilitating a vibrant and growing movement which will position eggs as an essential food for health.”
Demand for eggs as an easily digestible source of high-quality protein has remained steady in the UAE, say industry experts.
“The UAE has always been at the forefront of promoting healthy lifestyle and diet, whether it is through government initiatives or provision of facilities and related events. Egg consumption has always remained an integral part of this healthy lifestyle,” says Dr Suheel Ahmed, CEO — Holding, Arabian Farms, one of the leading local producer of SAHA fresh eggs.
“We not only try to meet the demand for local fresh products in terms of numbers but also spend a lot of resources in developing and introducing new and innovative ranges to support the healthy lifestyle of our consumers,” he adds. SAHA has a range of premium quality pasteurised shell eggs, Omega 3-enriched eggs, and lutein-enriched eggs.
The sustainability quotient
While the egg industry has already made tremendous progress to enhance production efficiencies in the past 50 years, which has resulted in eggs being recognised as a low impact protein source by the World Resources Institute, farms are still experiencing pressure to further drive the sustainability and environmental compliance of production processes. “There are many more opportunities ahead of us to continue to enhance our sustainability,” says Chitturi from IEC.
To improve the environmental sustainability of the global egg businesses, the IEC established its Environmental Sustainability Expert Group in 2019. “The group is made up of independent environmental specialists and professional sustainability experts who support us in the sharing of best practices and information.”
Farms in the UAE have taken significant measures to accelerate sustainability efforts in egg production and across the supply chain.
“Operational efficiency plays a key role in sustainability, which is linked to the technological advances,” says Dr Ahmed.
“Over the years, we, at Arabian Farms, have replaced most of our redundant technology with highly advanced, state-of-the-art machinery. These machines are highly efficient in terms of saving energy, man hours as well as other resources, creating a positive impact on our sustainability objectives.”
Like other economic sectors, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the tech transformation of the overall poultry sector, accelerating the adoption of automation and use contactless technologies to streamline production processes and strengthen existing hygiene and waste management standards of farms and factories.
We have redesigned our production areas to allow for social distancing. We have reviewed all our personnel and hand hygiene practices with intense awareness and training sessions.
“The poultry industry has always been conscious of the associated bacteria and viruses hence biological security has always been at the core of our business,” says Dr Ahmed. “The pandemic worked like a refresher to review all the hygiene precautions we have been taking over the years.”
At Arabian Farms, all the eggs produced are untouched by human hands and are graded and packed by fully automatic machines. “We have redesigned our production areas to allow for social distancing. We have reviewed all our personnel and hand hygiene practices with intense awareness and training sessions.”
Eggs from another of the UAE’s leading farms, Al Jazira Poultry, are also produced in safe and strictly monitored hygienic conditions, ensuring the highest levels of biosecurity within its farms. “We nurture our hens with great care providing them with a stress-free environment and a 100 per cent vegetarian diet. The high-quality feed produced within our farms is nutritionally fortified. We are striving to further consolidate our position as an industry leader of progressive farming,” says a spokesperson.
While commenting on the future prospects of the sector, industry experts are upbeat about demand growth in the sector.
As consumers have started to pay greater attention to health and wellness, it is likely that demand for enriched, free-from, and organic eggs will keep growing and gaining more and more space within the category.
“There is a bright future ahead for egg producers, if we work hard to promote this incredible product,” says Chitturi, adding, “Consumers around the world are becoming increasingly health conscious, while also considering their impact on the planet. As Gen-Z establishes its footprint on the global food market, we are likely to see increased focus on products that are good for you, and good for the planet.”
Willem van Walt Meijer, CEO of Al Ain Farms, expects demand for eggs to continue to flourish in the UAE in the future.
“Eggs have now gained more presence in people’s diets and are well-known for their health benefits. As consumers have started to pay greater attention to health and wellness, it is likely that demand for enriched, free-from, and organic eggs will keep growing and gaining more and more space within the category.”
Why you should include eggs in your diet
“Eggs are loaded with multiple nutrients. An average size egg contains 77 calories, 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of healthy fats, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids,” says Dr Jimmy Joseph, Specialist Internal Medicine and Diabetologist, Aster Specialist Clinic, International City, France Cluster.
Many studies have also highlighted the benefits of eggs for heart health. The American Heart Association suggests one egg (or two egg whites) per day as part of a healthy diet.
Eggs are loaded with multiple nutrients. An average size egg contains 77 calories, 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of healthy fats, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.
A study carried out in China and published in the journal Heart, found that people who consume an egg a day could significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases compared to those who eat no eggs.
White or yolk?
“While the egg white is a great source of protein and contains no fat, many of the egg’s nutrients and almost half of the protein is found in the yolk. Recent studies show eating whole eggs rather than just egg whites promotes muscle development after exercise,” says Dr Joseph.
Research has also found that eggs improve eye health. Yolks are rich in vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc, which are essential for our eye health.