Sunnyside up takes on a whole new meaning with the introduction of Vita D Sunshine Eggs, an enhanced egg that has the daily requirement for the sunshine vitamin, said Bill Vanderkooi, the CEO of Vitala Foods, which is introducing the egg.
The Abbotsford-based food innovator said the Vita-D egg is the first in the country to contain 200 IU of vitamin D, the daily intake that Health Canada recommended until this year. That's about seven times more than an egg would normally contain, he said.
Vanderkooi was able to attain that level by feeding his layer hens a plant-based supplement rich in vitamin D. Trials began three years ago.
"On the initial test we got a profound result, when we attained 100 IU per egg," said Vanderkooi.
After tweaking the feed supplement, that number was boosted to 200 IU per egg. The level can be modified even further to 600 IU, he adds, as Health Canada has now boosted its new recommended minimum level for vitamin D to 600 - 800 IU for adults and seniors.
The feed supplement was developed by Montreal specialty yeast producer Lallemand and fed to hens at the Vitala layer barn at Vanderkooi's Ecodairy complex on Sumas Way in Abbotsford.
The mix is propriety in Canada and Vanderkooi can't share the recipe, but he did say it doesn't have any genetically modified ingredients and could be certified organic, he said.
The enhanced eggs are approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.
They're a white egg with a firm medium yellow yolk that cooks up nicely in a frying pan.
The 10,000-layer flock lives in Bradner, and Golden Valley Foods of Abbotsford does the collecting, grading, packing and delivery of the eggs.
"The B.C. Egg Marketing Board is very supportive of this. Innovation in any business drives growth," added Vanderkooi.
He is hoping consumers will consider the eggs' health benefits.
Vitamin D aids in maintaining bone health - that's why we were fed cod liver oil when we were kids - and its presence in Canadians, or lack of it, has been getting attention in recent years.
"We've known that vitamin D is important in preventing rickets and other bone disease, and now there is growing evidence it may help with [preventing] multiple sclerosis, cancers, impaired immune function and mood disorders," he said.
Humans can produce up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D a day in their bodies when the skin is exposed to the sun's ultra violet rays.
The challenge for some Canadians, however, is that we don't get enough sunlight living above the 49th parallel. Compared to earlier generations, we spend more of our days inside, while sunscreen and winter also keep us from getting enough UV exposure to manufacture enough of our own vitamin D.
Leafy greens, fish, eggs and fortified milk provide some vitamin D, but fall short of the new Health Canada recommendations.
The Vita-D eggs are an easy way to consume the nutrient, said Vanderkooi.
This kind of innovation is not a first in Abbotsford, which is gaining a reputation as a home of agri-food innovators.
In 1994, Frank Born launched his Born 3 Egg with a high amount of Omega 3 unsaturated fats that was obtained by feeding his chickens a vegetarian feed mix. He, too, introduced a vitamin D-enriched egg this summer, which has about half the old daily recommended amount.
The Vita D Sunshine Eggs will be sold in Overwaitea, Save-On Foods and other stores for about $3.49 a dozen, about 50 to 60 cents more than regular white eggs. It will also be sold at both Nature's Pickins locations in Abbotsford, including the one at Vanderkooi's Ecodairy on Sumas Way.
Last week, Vanderkooi introduced the enhanced egg to Vancouver urbanites on Vitamin D Day, Nov. 2, established in to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining vitamin D through the winter months.
- If you want a taste of the sunny egg, the Vita D Sunshine crew and food truck will be giving away free breakfast burritos at Save-On Foods at 2140 Sumas Way, Abbotsford on Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon. Vanderkooi will be at the event with some other industry representatives.