No shell, no problem: eggs find new niche

 About 93 percent of North American households have eggs at any given time.  |  File photo

BANFF, Alta. — Eggs are a common food but new processes are adding value in unusual ways.

“Eggs are ubiquitous,” said Jonathan Merkle, chief science officer for the egg processing company Michael Foods, a $2.5-billion-a-year company that has its own farms and processing companies in the United States.

It is estimated that 93 percent of North American households have eggs at any given time and 85 percent of shoppers say eggs are healthy.

Eggs are more than a breakfast staple. Research has found valuable properties where eggs or their components can be used for nutrition supplements and pharmaceuticals, scientists said at the International Egg Nutrition Symposium held in Banff, from Oct 4-6.

While most eggs in North America are sold fresh at retail, processing eggs into liquid and dried products is a growing business.

Processed eggs are used in salad dressing, frozen entrees, sauces, baked goods and pasta, as well as in institutional food services.

Pasteurized shell eggs are not widely used but work well for recipes requiring lightly cooked eggs. They may also be used for soft-boiled and sunny-side-up eggs. Many are sold to hospitals or care facilities because the eggs carry lower health risks.

Michael’s Foods has a patented process to pasteurize liquid eggs, which are fresh eggs without the shell. These are homogenized, ultra pasteurized and aseptically packaged.

When eggs are pasteurized, some of the functionality of the proteins is affected, so sugar, salt or other additives may be included to increase the viscosity for processors.

Restaurants and fast-food outlets prefer processed liquid eggs for health reasons, easier storage and longer shelf life.

“In restaurants, if you break shell eggs, you have to wash hands before doing anything else in kitchen,” he said.

Whole liquefied eggs have a 12 week shelf life so food service have more flexibility in placing larger orders if required.

Food service is also moving more to finished products.

Precooked products are available for omelets, egg patties, burritos or quesadillas. They are frozen and the restaurant can quickly reheat them in large batches. They are also used in school and college cafeterias, coffee shops and quick-service restaurants to make breakfast sandwiches.

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