Poultry farmers in the country are struggling to increase their returns on investment following low consumption of eggs by Ghanaians as a result of fears about egg-cholesterol, a source close to the National Egg Campaign has disclosed.
The situation has led to slow growth of the poultry and other related businesses.
“For instance, due to the reduced incomes farmers are not able to purchase feed regularly; and as a result, feed millers have been producing at a reduced capacity of between 45% and 55%.
“Over the last few years, eight out of the 15 feed mills in the country have not been functional due to low patronage,” the source said.
The Ministries of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Health, Trade and Industry are collaborating with the Ghana National Association of Poultry Farmers and some private sector partners under the National Egg Campaign initiative to create a national drive to increase consumption of eggs in the country.
The three-year campaign, dubbed “Egg-cite your day”, is to encourage every Ghanaian to eat an egg a day to promote good nutrition and also help engender growth in the poultry industry.
President of the World Poultry Sciences Association, Ghana, Professor George Kwame Aning, said an increase in the consumption of eggs would lead to creating more jobs and affect the entire value chain.
He explained that for years people have been misinformed that eggs contained cholesterol which iss not good for human health, “but cholesterol is biosynthesised in the body. Research has shown that cholesterol is not about what we eat”.
He said, when we consume more eggs, the producers will produce more since they will have a ready market; and they will be bold enough to invest in the business with little or no support from government.
The Director of Animal Production at MoFA, Mr. Kwamina Arkoful, said the campaign will help educate consumers and the public with messages that break the myth surrounding the cholesterol associated with egg consumption.
Ghana, he said, is currently fighting protein deficiency and malnutrition among children and child-bearing women; explaining that per a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 2012 country profile report, nearly a quarter of pre-school children are stunted and affected by chronic malnutrition.
“The underlying cause of Ghanaians’ aversion to egg consumption can be traced to age-old beliefs and misconceptions that have been handed down from generations, but which have no factual basis,” he said.
A Paediatrician at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Kumasi – Dr Anthony K. Enimil, who recently endorsed the National Egg Campaign – said the restriction of egg dietary cholesterol consumption could not be supported by recent research findings.
He said there are a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as smoking and sedentary lifestyle, as well as dietary factors like saturated fat and trans-fatty acids.
However, the risk factors, he said, do not include dietary cholesterol intake.
Dr. Enimil, who is also a Lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, pointed out that eggs contain more mono-unsaturated fat than saturated fat, and consumption of eggs does not raise cholesterol levels in 70 percent of the general population – even those with existing cardiovascular disease.
Egg consumption, Dr. Enimil said, is associated with lower incidence of stroke.
In exceptionally few cases such as ApoE4 gene, Familial Hypercholesterolemia, and Dietary Cholesterol Hyper-responders, there is risk of high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and diabetes which the untrained eye may attribute to eggs.
“This is false and has no scientific backing,” the lecturer emphasised.
The Resident Paediatrician at KATH, Dr. Yaa Gyamfua Oppong-Mensah, also said a current baseline sampling conducted by the National Egg Campaign in collaboration with the University of Ghana suggested that of the 665 participants who participated in the exercise, nearly all consumed eggs.
Twenty of them (about three per cent) who did not consume eggs cited medical advice and myths about eggs.
The survey suggested that the average intake for those consuming eggs was 143 eggs per year or less than three per week.
This is against the US average of 236 per capita and 258 for Europe. In a recent report by the International Egg Commission (IEC), the average per capita consumption of eggs was 200 pieces per year.
With over 350 eggs, Mexico showed the highest value, followed by Japan, the Ukraine and China. In Europe, Denmark and Hungary had the highest consumption; the lowest was found in the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and India (57 eggs per capita).
Against this background, Dr. Oppong-Mensah encouraged Ghanaians to consume more eggs because they are high in quality animal protein, which has many benefits including increased muscle mass and better bone health.