Modelling with commercial egg powder to assess the potential of indigenous knowledge-processed egg powder to improve household food and nutrition security.
Eggs have potential to improve the nutritional status of individuals who are at risk of Protein-Energy Malnutrition in rural households of South Africa. However, eggs have a short shelf-life and rural households have limited or no access to modern preservation technologies. Therefore drying eggs into egg powder to increase their shelf-life could be a feasible egg preservation technique for rural households. The aim of this study was to use commercial egg powder as a model to assess the potential of indigenous knowledge-processed egg powder to improve household food and nutrition security of rural households of Mkhambathini in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. A total of 110 household representatives participated in the survey which was conducted to explore the importance of eggs in rural areas of Mkhambathini local Municipality by assessing egg production, utilisation and the perceived value of eggs by rural households. From the survey participants, 20 adult women and 20 youths (16 to 35 years old) voluntarily participated in a series of four focus group discussions to assess their perceptions on egg utilisation. Commercial egg powder was used as a model for indigenous knowledge-processed egg powder to assess the food and nutrition security potential of egg powder using popular egg based dishes. The consumer acceptability of relish and sandwiches prepared with egg powder was evaluated using a consumer panel of 51 subjects recruited from survey participants. The nutritional composition of relish and sandwich prepared with egg powder was determined by the standard methods of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC). Gross energy, protein, fat, fibre, total mineral content (ash) and selected individual minerals were determined. Market research assessing the accessibility of egg powder at a household level of Mkhambathini was conducted. A cost effectiveness analysis of producing egg powder at a household level compared to purchasing egg powder from commercial markets was evaluated. The same focus group discussions were used to assess the perceived benefits of producing egg powder at a household level. The survey findings indicated that rural households in Mkhambathini were actively engaged in egg production, but poultry diseases and predation negatively affected egg production and productivity. The households had very limited or no access to modern egg storage and preservation technologies. As a result, the households lost a significant proportion of the eggs through spoilage. The rural households of Mkhambathini utilised eggs for food and several socio-cultural practices. The household perceived eggs as an important nutritious food source as well as a highly valuable agricultural commodity for socio-cultural applications. The survey results indicated that eggs were used to prepare several dishes. Egg relish and sandwiches topped other dishes in terms of consumption. The overall acceptability of egg powder relish and sandwich was high and similar to that of fresh egg relish and sandwich. Thus, generally, commercial egg powder had no negative effects on the sensory properties of the relish and sandwich. The nutritional composition of commercial egg powder and fresh egg was similar. The protein content of egg powder relish and sandwich was lower than that of the corresponding fresh egg products, however, it was nutritionally substantial. The results suggest that, in the form of relish and sandwich, commercial egg powder has a potential to improve the nutritional status of individuals who are at risk of having or have Protein-Energy Malnutrition. It was found that it would be cost effective for rural households in Mkhambathini to produce their own egg powder compared to purchasing the powder from commercial markets as they could utilise locally available resources. The production of egg powder at a household level could contribute to the frequent consumption of egg-based food products since egg powder will ensure the availability of eggs at all times. The increased utilisation of eggs would increase the demand for local eggs subsequently improving rural household livelihoods. Therefore, this study indicates that smallholder farmers and rural households could generate a profit from processing eggs into powder at household level. This could create opportunities for rural households to earn profitable cash income from selling either fresh eggs or egg powder or both. The study results indicating the willingness of the rural households of Mkhambathini to try preserving eggs by processing them into powder and the observed high consumer acceptability of egg powder dishes prepared with commercial egg powder are encouraging as they highlight an opportunity to introduce egg powder as an egg preservation technique in rural Mkhambathini and other rural areas in similar socio-economic circumstances. Further research is therefore recommended to expand the consumer sample size and study area in order to increase the confidence of concluding these results for large rural populations.