May 18, 2020
The true question may not be which came first—the chicken or the egg—but rather, what was the color of the yolk? In Mexico, the U.S. Grains Council is working with poultry producers to examine how U.S. corn distillers oil (CDO)—a co-product of ethanol production—can help achieve the darker yellow egg yolk desired by consumers and boost the immune systems of the chickens that lay those eggs.
Mexican consumers prefer yellow-skinned chickens and dark yellow egg yolks. Shifting the color of an egg yolk from pale yellow to dark yellow can be accomplished by changing a chicken’s diet. To do so, Mexican layer producers often add a pigmenting agent, mainly marigold extract, to feed rations, which also adds to the cost of the finished feed.
Council staff proposed a different solution—CDO, which was already being added to Mexican poultry rations for its energy value. A research project conducted with North Carolina State University successfully demonstrated CDO contained carotenoid pigments, naturally occurring pigments that would enhance yolk color and provide other nutritional benefits.
The Council—using a combination of funding from the USDA’s Market Access Program and Agricultural Trade Promotion program—took this information to Mexico’s largest importer and distributor of CDO and formed a partnership to conduct one-on-one visits with major poultry companies.
Throughout 2019, the Council conducted specific batch testing on imported product and developed marketing materials and feeding guides. The Council also set up booths to provide information and facilitate networking with suppliers at meetings for ANFACA, one of the largest grain and feed associations in Mexico, and AVECAO, the largest poultry event in Tepatitlan.
“Several companies in Mexico were already utilizing CDO, but for energy content value, not pigment,” said Patricia Esqueda, USGC western Mexico marketing specialist. “While many of the nutritionists at poultry companies did not initially look at pigment as an advantage of CDO, they did consider the total carotenoid content as an excellent source of antioxidants that would promote healthy immune systems in the birds.”
By fall 2019, the Council convinced three additional poultry companies to import CDO for the first time, making weekly purchases. Other companies also expressed interest and received CDO samples to test in their rations. While CDO supplies are currently limited due to constraints within the U.S. ethanol industry, these companies remain engaged with the Council and interested in adding the co-product to their formulations.
“Egg yolks have been looking paler in Mexico, due to the current pricing and availability for both U.S. CDO and Chinese marigold,” Esqueda said. “But as customer preferences continue to exist for a darker yolk, we do expect demand for CDO to come back in the poultry market as pigment prices stabilize.”
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