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Chickens Get a Special Diet, and the Result Is Lower-Cholesterol Eggs

Associated Press

Hens fed a special diet have produced eggs with less than half the cholesterol of regular eggs, say farmers who hope the new eggs will appeal to consumers concerned about cholesterol.

But a heart disease specialist said they are “not a huge breakthrough.”

Excessive deposits of cholesterol are thought to produce arteriosclerosis, which might lead to artery and heart disease.

“If the doc says you need a low-cholesterol diet, this is just the thing,” declared Paul May, manager of Rosemary Farm in Santa Maria, Calif., where the special diet hens are laying the eggs.

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May said about 25% of his farm’s 300,000 chickens are fed a special diet that is being kept secret while lawyers see if it can be patented.

The eggs are also a little lower in sodium, which has been associated with high blood pressure, he said. May said the eggs have 55 milligrams of sodium, compared to 70 milligrams in a regular egg.

The eggs, which went on sale early this week in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, cost consumers 30% more than regular eggs, May said.

A state permit confirmed the claims that the eggs have an average of 125 milligrams of cholesterol, compared to an average 278 milligrams in a standard grade AA egg, according to Ardie Ferrill, supervisor of egg inspection for the state Department of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento.

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The low-cholesterol claims for the new eggs “are absolutely true,” Ferrill said.

After running the eggs through laboratory tests, the agency issued a permit that allows the farm to boast on labels that its eggs are lower in cholesterol, he said. It is the only such permit issued in California.

The eggs were developed in part through consultation with University of California scientists and a nutritionist, May said. He added that they contain “no drugs or additives.”

The American Heart Assn. recommends that an adult keep the average daily dietary intake of cholesterol below 300 milligrams.

John Kane, University of California at San Francisco biochemist, an authority on diet and heart disease, is not sold on the new eggs.

When it comes to eggs, less cholesterol is not the same as low cholesterol, he said.

“These eggs are not a huge breakthrough,” said Kane, who nevertheless acknowledged the advantage in reducing cholesterol in eggs.


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