By Dr. Becker
Last year, an economic development program in Canada awarded a large grant to help a former egg processing plant re-open as a business that converts egg waste into pet food ingredients.
The plant, which had been closed for four years, now processes whole egg waste from egg grading plants to produce powdered pet food ingredients.
It also extracts egg whites from discarded egg shells and produces liquid egg white that is used as a binding agent in pet food.
According to the company, the powdered egg product has up to 50 percent protein, and the egg white binding agent is 80 percent protein.
Government officials feel the grant is helping to turn "… something that was considered waste unto a usable product."
They also hope the re-opening of the plant will benefit the community and create jobs.
I'm all for finding ways to make use of food waste products, for example, as an energy source or as fertilizer.
But I'm certainly not in favor of repurposing waste as nutrition for dogs and cats.
In the U.K., egg and egg products not fit or intended for human consumption are considered animal by-products.
They fall into the same category as manure and digestive tract content, hides and skins, wool, feathers, semen, ova and embryos, shellfish shells and "other products of animal origin."i
"Whole Egg Waste"
According to a U.S. pet food ingredient manufacturer who sells dried egg productii , there are three main sources of the whole egg waste used in pet food: 'Grader,' 'Breaker,' and 'Hatchery.'
Grader egg waste comes from egg processing facilities that sell to supermarkets. These eggs need to look appealing when grocery shoppers open the carton. Any egg with a cracked or dirty shell is tossed into an 'inedible' bin.
Breaker egg waste comes from facilities that use eggs in prepared or frozen mixes used by restaurants, bakers and other food service outlets. The waste that comes from breaker eggs is mostly egg white left after the yolk is separated.
These two types of whole egg waste are, according to the pet food ingredient company, collected daily, kept refrigerated, and dried within a day of collection.
Hatchery waste is liquid from eggs that didn't hatch. It tends to lead to foul odors in the dried egg product, so it presumably isn't used as often as the other two types of whole egg waste.
All three categories of eggs have been deemed unfit for human consumption.
How Does Whole Egg Waste Become Powdered Egg Product for Pet Food?
With the exception of hatchery waste, whole egg waste products don't seem as objectionable as many other by-products found in commercial pet food.
Certainly fresh, whole eggs – preferably from organically raised chickens – provide a better source of nutrition. But egg whites and the fresh contents of broken or dirty eggshells aren't in and of themselves problem ingredients.
However, in order to make use of whole egg waste in commercial pet food, it must be processed in some manner. It must become 'egg product' with a reasonably long shelf life. Remember the plant in Canada is producing 'powdered egg product.'
AAFCO definition of egg product:
"Product obtained from egg graders, egg breakers, and/or hatchery operations that is dehydrated, handled as liquid or frozen. These shall be labeled as per USDA regulations governing eggs and egg products (9CFR, Part 59). This product shall be free of shells or other non-egg materials except in such amounts which might occur unavoidably in good processing practices, and contain a maximum ash content of 6% on a dry matter basis."
Not surprisingly, it's incredibly difficult to find out how egg waste product is processed for the pet food market. However, according to the American Egg Boardiii , dried egg products for human consumption are typically produced through spray drying.
Before the egg white is dried, glucose is removed to increase storage stability, and sometimes 'whipping aids' are added. Sodium lauryl sulfate, used as a volume enhancer, is also added.
When long storage stability is required, glucose is also removed from whole egg and yolk products before drying. In some cases, glucose-free corn syrup and sucrose are added to improve storage stability.
Egg Waste Isn't a High Quality Protein Source for Pets
My greatest concern with egg waste product in commercial pet food is that it is commonly used to cheaply inflate the amount of protein contained in the formula.
And I suspect not only the powdered egg product is being used to inflate protein percentages, but also the binding agent derived from egg whites.
As I discuss often here at Mercola Healthy Pets, the digestibility of the protein your pet is fed is key. It doesn't matter how high the protein percentage in a certain food is if your dog or cat can't digest it and make use of it as high quality nutrition.
Bioavailability is the measure of how efficiently food nutrients (the amino acids in protein) are absorbed and used by the cells of the body after digestion. The bioavailability of a whole egg is 100 – the gold standard for bioavailability.
The bioavailability of egg waste product is … who knows? So while the egg waste product manufacturers boast protein amounts of 50 percent and 80 percent, how much if any of that processed egg waste protein actually benefits your pet … is unknown.
Egg waste products are not a source of egg shell membrane, the recently discovered joint protective agent that many people are finding beneficial for their pets. In fact, no one really knows why ethical pet food manufacturers would choose to use egg waste product in their pet food, other than to provide a cheap way to bolster protein percentages on the pet food label.
Generally speaking, it's easy to find dried egg product on the list of ingredients in lesser quality commercial pet foods. The better the food, the less likely it will be to contain this ingredient.
My recommendation for those of you who feed commercially available canned or dry pet food formulas is to skip anything with egg product on the ingredient list. There's just no way to tell what it is, exactly … or where it came from … or how it was processed before being mixed into your pet's prepared food.
If you want to feed eggs to your healthy dog or cat, I recommend going with whole fresh eggs, preferably locally raised. You can feed them either raw or lightly cooked. If you cook them, leave the yolks intact to preserve the omega-3 fatty acids.
If the commercial food you serve your pet is a brand you like and trust, and it also contains egg product, you can give the manufacturer a call or send them an email and ask where they source their egg product. It may or may not be egg waste product, and the response you receive may ease your mind about the quality of the nutrition you're feeding your dog or cat.