February 26, 2001
Lincoln, Neb. — Omega Eggs, produced using a patented University of Nebraska management system, will be available beginning this week at Hy-Vee supermarkets in seven states under a licensing agreement.
Omega Eggs are high in beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids and contain less saturated fat than conventional eggs. These eggs are produced by hens fed a patented diet that includes flax seed, a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. NU Poultry Scientist Sheila Scheideler developed the complete management program to economically produce eggs high in Omega 3 fatty acids. The university patented the system and holds the trademark on Omega Eggs.
Omega Eggs are available in the refrigerated sections of more than 200 Hy-Vee stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota through a licensing agreement between the university and Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI), a Hy-Vee subsidiary and refrigerated section supplier. An Iowa egg producer produces Omega Eggs for PDI using NU's patented management system.
Omega Eggs look, taste and cook like regular white eggs, Scheideler said. It's what's inside that's different. They contain 350 milligrams of Omega 3 fatty acids compared with 60 milligrams in regular eggs. Thanks to the hens' Omega 3-rich rations, these eggs also have 180 milligrams of cholesterol compared with about 215 milligrams in regular eggs and a third less saturated fat, Scheideler said.
Omega 3s are known to reduce several heart disease risk factors yet many Americans don't eat diets rich in these beneficial fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids increase the ratio of good (HDL) to bad (LDL) cholesterol in blood and decrease occurrence of blood clots and arrhythmias, research indicates.
"Two Omega Eggs provide the same amount of Omega 3 fatty acids as a 3-ounce serving of salmon," a major source of Omega 3s, Scheideler said.
A study by NU Nutrition Scientist Nancy Lewis found that people with high cholesterol levels who ate two Omega Eggs a day, six days a week, decreased their serum triglyceride levels by 14 percent and their cholesterol levels didn't increase. High triglyceride levels are a heart disease risk factor.
For Scheideler, commercialization has been a long time coming.
"For five years, I've had countless calls from people in Nebraska and other states asking where they can get these eggs. I can finally tell them that they're available at their local supermarket," she said. Stories about Scheideler's research generated consumer interest over the years but the eggs were only available at the university's dairy store, where they'll continue to be sold in limited quantities.
"We're very excited about this license because it will get these eggs out to a multi-state area," she said. "This is an example of NU Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources research being made available to consumers. Our agricultural research doesn't just benefit farmers - consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries."
She began researching how to economically produce eggs rich in Omega 3 fatty acids after North Dakota flax producers contacted her about the potential for using flax in poultry feed.
"The more I read about Omega 3s, the more excited I became about the potential for producing eggs rich in these beneficial fatty acids," she explained. Earlier studies showed adjusting hens' diets could boost eggs' Omega 3 content, but Scheideler was the first in the United States to develop an economical, complete system for producing Omega Eggs.
Scheideler's management system covers every step of Omega Egg production, from the hens' genetics and feed preparation for the entire 60-week production cycle, to management and quality control. She works with egg production site managers to make sure the patent is being correctly implemented.
"We've developed a sound program from start to finish that provides good nutrition for the chickens, produces a consistent nutritional product and addresses food safety issues," she explained.
The university continues to seek licensing agreements that would make Omega Eggs produced with the NU management program available in parts of Nebraska and in other states not served by Hy-Vee.
This research was conducted through the university's Agricultural Research Division and partly funded by the North Dakota Oil Seed Council and the U. S. Flax Institute.
Professor and Extension Poultry Specialist
UNL Office of Technology Transfer
Marketing/Technology Transfer Associate
Research Communications Coordinator