Eggs: harnessing their power for the fight against hunger and malnutrition
In spite of the increasing prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases, undernutrition remains a critical issue for many of the world’s poorer countries. In each of Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa, and South Asia, more than a third of children are stunted. In fact, nearly 151 million children under five in the world were still stunted in 2017. For many of these children, the poor growth which will blight their entire lives began in their mothers’ wombs. Poor quality food is one major contributor to poor growth both in the womb and during the vulnerable first years of life. But which foods should we be promoting to make a difference to these figures? And how should we go about making the most nutritious foods accessible to world’s poorest populations?
The humble egg seems increasingly likely to offer a practical and impactful opportunity to tackle these problems. Eggs are almost pure protein, of very high quality. They also provide virtually the entire Adequate Intake, for young children, of vitamin B12 and choline. The essential fatty acid content of eggs may be especially important in pregnancy. Nearly the whole world—with the notable exception of the vegetarian belt of India—likes to eat eggs, and they can be produced at prices which make them accessible even to the moderately poor.
Since the publication of a landmark trial last year (Iannotti, 2017), we have known that daily consumption of eggs can markedly improve the linear growth of young children. The journal Maternal and Child Nutrition has now published a special supplement, which summarises a wealth of additional information on the value of eggs and feasible ways of increasing access.
The first paper provides an overview of the role of eggs in the diet of maternal and child nutrition and updated data on egg consumption (Lutter et al., 2018) while the second summarizes how social marketing was used in a randomized controlled trial of eggs early in the complementary feeding period to foster high compliance, as well as empowerment of participants and policy change in Ecuador (Gallegos-Riofrio et al., 2018).
The third and fourth papers examine how a controlled intervention to foster poultry production affected child dietary diversity and nutritional status in Ghana (Marquis et al., 2018) and Zambia (Dumas et al., 2018) while the fifth paper reviews successes and lessons learned from a project on small-scale poultry production to increase egg production and household egg intake in four diverse African contexts (Nordhagen & Klemn, 2018).
A novel approach to use chicken eggshells to improve dietary calcium intake in rural sub-Saharan Africa is reported in the sixth paper (Bartter et al., 2018), while the seventh paper reports on business models for poultry production in East Africa and India (Beesathuni et al., 2018).
The multiple roles, systems and challenges and options for sustainable poultry production through a Planetary Health lens are reviewed in the eighth paper (Alders et al., 2018) and the supplement closes with a paper on how universal access to eggs might be achieved through large scale poultry production (Morris et al., 2018).
Taking advantage of these latest studies, we would like to invite you to join a discussion around this important topic. Your experience and knowledge will be of great value to operationalize the findings and to raise awareness of the role that eggs can play in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
- In order to increase access to eggs for the world’s poorer populations, what should be the right balance between small-scale production, large-scale commercial production, and long-distance trade? If countries do increasingly move towards large-scale production, how do we balance the interests of better nutrition with concerns about smallholder livelihoods?
- What are the different ways that we could increase demand for eggs, other than increasing availability and reducing price? What are some examples of successful initiatives?
- How can we mitigate the potential downsides of large-scale egg production on animal welfare and carbon emissions?
- What do we need different stakeholders (governments; private sector; academia; normative agencies) to do to accelerate access to eggs in poor communities?
We hope that you will find this interesting and look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments.
All the best
This activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.
Dr. Saul Morris
I would also like to thank all the participants of this discussion for their thoughtful and informative posts.
It is clear that we have an enormous wealth of information available about how increase the consumption of this extraordinarily nutritious food.
I hope we can count on all of your help moving this agenda forward over the coming years.
This has been both a fascinating and educational discussion, and I very much enjoyed taking part. Thank you all for your contributions, and for sharing your unique perspectives and thought-provoking questions. The case studies you have shared and your first-hand insights towards programs that deliver eggs to communities around the world around are evidence of the role eggs can take in addressing malnutrition and feeding our growing global population. In closing, I’d like to thank my co-facilitator, Saul Morris, and FAO FSN Forum for hosting this discussion and offering such a tremendous platform for discussion and debate.
English translation below
Bonjour Chers Collègues,
Pour booster la consommation des œufs dans certains milieux ruraux, il faut poursuivre la sensibilisation des populations, combattre certains tabous, introduire la consommation des œufs dans les centres de récupération des enfants malnutris. Aussi plutôt développer l'élevage la production d'œufs des pintades qui sont plus consommées dans les villages que les œufs des poules. Former les petits producteurs notamment les jeunes et les femmes comment réussir l'élevage des pintades, car dans la plupart des marchés ruraux les œufs des pintades sont bien vendus et consommés en saison des pluies (période de production). il Ya même des réseaux de collecte pour ravitailler les centres urbains. Il faut aussi développer des systèmes de production d'aliments pour volaille à moindre coût en milieu rural et former des vaccinateurs vaccinatrices villageois pour l'accès à temps aux vaccins et antiparasitaires requis, notamment contre la maladie de Newcasle, la variole et le choléra aviaire, les ectoparasites et autres. Dans la mesure du possible développer la production et la commercialisation des pineaux et autres poussins en milieu rural.
Livestock for Growth program in Mali
Hello Dear Colleagues,
To boost egg consumption in some rural areas, it is necessary to continue raising awareness, overcome certain taboos and introduce egg consumption in the recovery centres for malnourished children.
Also, rather develop the breeding and production of guinea fowl eggs, which are more consumed in villages than hen eggs.
Training small producers, especially young people and women, in order to successfully breed guinea fowl, as in most rural markets guinea fowl eggs are well traded and consumed in the rainy season (production period). There are even collecting networks to supply urban centers.
It is also necessary to develop low-cost poultry feed production systems in rural areas and train village vaccinators to ensure timely access to the required vaccines and antiparasitic agents, including Newcastle disease, smallpox and avian cholera, ectoparasites and others.
Where possible, to develop the production and marketing of pintels and other chicks in rural areas.
Livestock for Growth program in Mali
Mr. Olutosin Otekunrin
Dwelling on the aspect of this discussion (2) “What are the different ways that we could increase demand for eggs, other than increasing availability and reducing price? What are some examples of successful initiatives?”
The Nigerian Experience
One of the major initiatives explored by the government of Nigeria in improving the lives of the people is through the implementation of Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Programme which focused on providing food to school children (food based safety net programme) and this will indirectly help improve food security in the beneficiary households. The preparation of the meals will include the supply of protein rich foods like poultry products (mainly chicken and eggs). Demand for eggs will increase in this areas and other variety of food types where this programme is been implemented.
Children will benefit from a hot nutritionally balanced school meal; farmers will benefit from improved access to school feeding markets; and communities will benefit from new jobs across the supply chain such as catering, processing and food handling jobs. Besides the direct benefits, it is intended that HGSF can act as an important catalyst to drive (a) Agriculture-nutrition policies given the direct nutritional components of HGSF menus, and (b) Smallholder market participation with spill-over effects on broader public agriculture commodity procurement.
The main Objectives of HGSF programme are as follow:
1. The school enrolment and completion: The programme is aimed at improving the enrolment of primary school children in Nigeria and reduce the current dropout rate in primary school which was estimated to be 30%.
2. Child Nutrition and Health: The programme aimed at addressing the poor nutrition and health status of many children and thereby improving their overall academic performance (learning outcomes).
3. Local Agricultural Production: the programme aimed at stimulating local agricultural production and boost the income of farmers by creating a viable and ready market through the school feeding programme .
4. Creating jobs and improving family and state economy: The programme aimed at create jobs along the value chain and provide multiplier effect for economic growth and development.
HGSF programme is designed to provide minimum of one meal a day to each school pupil.
The Federal Government of Nigeria piloted the implementation of Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme in 2004. The Federal Ministry of Education was the designated implementing agency for a phased-pilot rollout, beginning with 12 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) selected from the six geopolitical zones.
Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other International Development Partners, developed the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP). The programme was launched in September, 2005. Out of the 13 States that stated the programme in 2004, it is only Osun State that is still in full implementation of the programme. The State Osun HGSFHP, now known as Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O-MEALS) commenced as a pilot programme in May 2006. Since 2012, the state has redesigned and funded it considerably to live to the aims and objectives of this programme among other states in the country.
Implementation of O-MEALS in Osun State
The state government worked with nutritionist in the tertiary institutions within the state for menu development for the programme. Large number of food vendors were identified from all Local Government Areas (LGAs), trained and empowered to prepare the meals in conducive and hygienic environments. Food materials are sourced from local farmers associations directly by food vendors.
Phase I: April 2012 with feeding of pupils in grades 1, 2, & 3
Phase II: Extended in December 2012 to include pupils in grade 4.
Ms. Sarah Wanene
Campaigning for one egg per child is the way to go, especially in the rural parts of Africa. It is recommended that one needs a daily intake of protein and the most widely available and affordable protein is the egg. A practical example of my rural area: a 250g of meat is Kshs.120, well, considering the meat is to be taken by a family of 5 it will mean each one will have 50g of meat. The chances of the meat being well utilized by the body to reach the proteins full potential is minimal. The problem is this meat is not available daily it is bought in every two weeks or weekly this means it is not enough to cater for the recommended protein intake daily. An egg is cheaper going for Kshs.15 meaning for the same amount of Kshs. 120 the family can afford protein intake two times a week. This is almost guaranteed protein because one hard boiled eggs gives men up to 11 percent of the daily recommended intake and women get up to 14 percent of the recommended daily intake. Eggs are inexpensive and they are in high quality protein, vitamins and minerals.
To increase the availability of eggs in rural Africa calls for poultry rearing projects within the communities. The governments can be involved because the children are most vulnerable and if the governments could get to provide eggs in school, that way even the poorest get this nutritious commodity. So communities join together to have projects in turn the government is pushed to buy the eggs from the farmers then farmers earn some income and the children benefit both from home and school. Such projects like having food provided has kept children in school even when things are not looking up at home.
Dr. Taylor Wallace
Hi Everyone -
We recently published a manuscript "Eggs, choline, lutein and cognition across the lifespan."
There seems to be clear scientific evidence to suggest that both choline and lutein play a vital role in brain and neurological development during the first 1000 days postconception. We need other intervention studies around the world. One recent randomized trial in the US found effects of choline on cognition seven years after mothers were supplemented during the third trimester!
On the lutein side, it looks like macular pigment optical density is an inexpensive, noninvasive and fairly reliable marker of cognitive status, which could be important in some of these short-term intervention studies.
Ms. Stella Kimambo
I have been watching the conversation and would like to share good life stories of a miracle porridge mixed with eggshells. As African’s, we normally plate our hairs in different styles. On July 2018, I met with a woman (46 years old) on one of the saloons at Dodoma City Tanzania. She was carrying porridge on thermos. She said that, she normally takes this porridge because it has some miraculous power in it. When I tasted the porridge, it contained unique particles comparing to a normal porridge that we usually take.
The woman explained that she was unhappy for a while using medications because she was feeling pain in her neck and legs, but one of her friends introduced her to a blended porridge of egg shells, Bambara nuts, sorghum, and maize, soon after she started drinking the porridge she was released from the pain and she is doing fine. She normally mixes 4 eggshells (after washing them with clean water and let the shells sundry), 1kg Maize; 1kg Sorghum and ½ Kg of Bambara Nuts then she goes to a milling machine nearby to get a blended flour. She further explained that her grandmother (72) for a long time, was unable to walk due to serious pain at the back and on her legs, she relied on her family for help when needed to do any movement including going to the washroom, she was introduced to the miracle porridge and within 3 months, she was healed and she can walk and do her home activities. The porridge has become like a family meal used by some family members and friends such as Janet (74) who had neck pain, extremely stressful in the hospital and she was wearing the Neck Collar Brace without any relief but the miracle porridge helped her to work as usual, now she can carry a bucket of water and do normal routing work required. This recipe worked efficiently for Flora (53) suffering from knee pain. Being dependent, she used the porridge for three weeks and she was healed. Whenever she met anyone facing the same challenge she had, she introduced the recipe to a particular person and all were healed.
Based on this, I would suggest more research on this as well as improve strategies to mitigate challenges in poultry sector such as the source of raw materials for feeds and improve poultry breeder farms and hatchery facilities; strengthening of food safety and quality control mechanisms for better utilization for health population and economic growth.
Prof. Mohamed Salih
Producing Carotenoids and Selenium Enriched Eggs Using Herbal Plants for Nutritional Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa
Recently, a high degree of renewed interest is placed on the nutritional properties of herbal plants, which contain compounds with antioxidant activities such as Vitamin C, Carotenoids, organic selenium (Se) and flavonoids. There are claims in the literature that these herbs have nutritional, therapeutic and prophylactic properties due to their high level of antioxidants, that are natural, highly bio-available and inexpensive compared to conventionally synthetic antioxidants.
Results of recent research at our laboratory at College of Agricultural Studies, Sudan University of Science & technology (Submitted for publication), demonstrated that using a local herb as feed additive in the diet of Single-comb White Leghorn (SCWL), show a numerically (not significant) increase in hen-day egg production and egg weight , but a significantly increase the egg quality parameters as measured by shell thickness, albumen quality of eggs storage for up to two weeks and yolk color as well as full bright feather coverage and significant improvement in primary and secondary immune response of the hens.
This Improvement in quality parameters will have the following advantages for farmers:
Improvement in eggshell strength will have a significant impact in the tropical countries since the high ambient temperature in this region is known increase eggshell breakage.
Recently layers laying cycle around the world is extended to well over 100 weeks. Therefore, eggshell breakage at old age can no longer be a limiting factor for this extension.
Color is one of the most important factors that affect consumer choices through sensory evaluation of food, a bright yolk color is considered as an indicator of freshness, good health, and performance of the flock. This bright yolk color is a value-added; especially in countries where poultry feed depends on sorghum as the main source of energy.
Excessive feather loss adversely affects feed conversion, as birds must allocate some of the available feed energy to compensate for heat loss. In addition, full and bright plumage cover will improve the welfare image of laying hens.
The herb immune-boosting agent can be used as a nutritional intervention tool to reduce antibiotic usage. Thus, meeting consumer demand for high quality, antibiotic-free poultry products.
The benefits of increasing the Carotenoids and Se content of the hen’s egg on human health
Particular interest in Se as antioxidants has been generated as a result of a number of studies showing that inadequate Se consumption is associated with poor health, genetic defects, Goiter and defense against (coronary heart disease and cancer) as well as various viral and bacterial diseases. The role of Se in human health and diseases has been discussed in detail in several recent reviews, with the main conclusion being that Se deficiency is recognized as a global problem. Therefore, finding a solution to this problem is now on the agenda of many government health bodies.
Carotenoids (lutein and Zeaxanthin) have been included recently into the antioxidants family. Evidence in several species suggests direct effects of lutein on the immune response.
Local herb natural and potent antioxidants (lutein and organic Se) would allow for the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids into eggs and poultry meat since these natural antioxidants will protect omega -3 fatty acids from oxidation.
As a final conclusion, the information obtained from this study indicate that a designer egg-enriched in carotenoids and Se can be not only a good nutritional product but also a good vector for the delivery of two essential nutrients vital for human health. Additionally, we think that production of such enriched eggs will be a bold idea that could transform the way chronic diseases are treated in the developing world and may benefit the health of developed world citizens as well.
Mr. Jean-Laurent Bungener
Eggs production has to be understanding with its ecological impact on ecosystem.
Three main product are produced, meat, manures (including feather), bones and eggshell. Production of eggs could also include protection against insect and little snakes.
On the other side quality of Eggs production is also a matter of grass, grain and water and veterinary constraint.
And finally to sell eggs you need to have good roads.
Eggs are easy to conserve for one month.
So egg production must be sustainable. This include selection and conservation of the best adapted variety of poultry, Adapting production to seasonal variation; and reusing all the by-products (bones, shell, feather, manures) with the best techniques (biochar etc..) and disposal of centre to manage eggs transportation and selling.
Producing poultry is a matter of nursery and predators, producing eggs is a matter of henhouse and pest.
So if we stand on those different facts; egg production could be use under three way.
Economic if you can sell them easily
Nutritional if they are for self-consumption during the "period de soudure" in the sahelian zone for example
Agronomic if you consider all the by-products you can use for crops production including crop protection against insects.
Reasoning on egg production could be established on the needs of a family. Then you could extend your production depending on grain and grass availability with a top production corresponding to one or two month after harvesting and a progressive reduction of poultry production till conserving just the youngest and best animals for the family and beginning nursery just two month before the beginning of top production.
This is to my view the best ways to use eggs in the benefits of the farmer.
Ms. Colleen Farrell
Around the world, women and young children bear the highest burden of undernutrition. The promotion of behaviors such as egg production and consumption for dietary diversification is a cost-effective and sustainable initiative to improve nutritional status in vulnerable groups. Chicken/duck-rearing and egg production can offer an additional source of household income, providing families with more resources to mitigate the effects of poverty and food insecurity.
As part of an innovative approach to substantially and sustainably improve nutritional outcomes for mothers and children, CARE implemented the Nutrition at the Center ([email protected]) project, a five-year global intervention aimed at reducing anemia in girls and women (ages 15-49) and stunting and anemia in infants and young children (0-23 months) by integrating maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN); water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); food security; and women’s empowerment. Complementary programs in three of the four [email protected] countries – Bangladesh, Benin, and Ethiopia – focused specifically on homestead gardening, poultry-rearing, and egg production, with the goal of increasing egg consumption to improve dietary diversity and the overall nutritional status of mothers and children.
Key strategies to increase demand for eggs included: 1) utilization of improved chicken breeds and varieties that are resistant to disease and have higher egg yield, 2) utilization of low-cost, locally available chicken production systems combined with adequate disease control and health programs through supervision of agricultural extension service experts, 3) facilitation of cooking demonstrations to share new and locally acceptable recipes including eggs; and 4) advocacy for social behavior change in communities with existing taboos about egg consumption. Preliminary program end-line results indicate substantial improvements in dietary diversity among women and children in CARE’s intervention areas, as well as increased egg consumption:
In Ethiopia, [email protected] provided 1,000 resource-poor households with Bovans Brown layer chickens – a highly productive hardy breed – and monitored rearing practices with the help of agricultural extension service experts. Among members of 100 randomly selected households, 57% of children 6-23 months old reportedly consumed more than 4 eggs per week versus 7% at baseline, and 72% of lactating women versus 6% at baseline.
[email protected]: Homegrown, in Bangladesh, saw an increase in women’s egg consumption by 46 percentage points and nearly 60 percentage points (to 83.1% from 23.6%) with minimum dietary diversity; with the proportion of young children (6-23 months) having increased 51 percentage points and to 89.1% (from 32.6%) respectively. This was following the distribution of ducks to 3,000 of the poorest households in the intervention and provided trainings, through Farmers Nutrition Groups, on duck-rearing, homestead farming, maternal and child nutrition, and other pertinent topics.
In Benin, the combination of nutrition education and behavior change with the promotion of animal source food consumption produced positive results in almost all nutritional indicators among women and children with increased household dietary diversity, and the number of families feeding their children animal-sourced foods doubled. Most notably, findings showed that stunting among children increased by 5% in control sites, while program sites showed a 5% reduction in stunting rates indicating that the program activities, such as the promotion poultry raising, may be attributable to stunting prevention.
Overall, these encouraging results indicate that promoting egg consumption and building the capacity of households to rear egg-producing animals can have a significant impact on improving dietary diversity, and ultimately, the nutritional status of vulnerable women and children.