The Egg producers of Quebec are considering increasing the content of vitamin-D in eggs. Vitamin-D plays an important role in maintaining our health and recent reports from Health Canada suggests nearly one third of the Canadian population are lacking vitamin-D. The lack of vitamin-D is especially common in winter, when the sun strength is insufficient for the body to generate this vitamin. Increasing the content of vitamin-D in eggs, a widely consumed product, could help consumers reach their vitamin-D needs. Scientific research has shown that the content of vitamin D in eggs can be increased from 30 UI to 150 UI by supplementing the hen’s diet without causing any adverse effects to the animal’s health.
This solution seems ideal from a public health perspective. However, consumer perceptions when altering a natural product such as egg might not be as expected. Therefore, consideration must be given to examine consumers’ reaction to high vitamin D eggs and identify possible disapproval that this initiative might provoke. Furthermore, questions remained regarding the best way to bring these eggs to market. Either high vitamin-D eggs could become a specialty product like it is currently the case with Omega-3 eggs. Alternatively, changing the hen’s diet can become an industry-wide initiative; making all types of eggs produced in Quebec high in vitamin D.
To gain insight into consumers’ perception of this initiative and their preference to how to bring these eggs to market, the Egg Industry Economic Research Chair at University Laval conducted an online survey to 1223 Quebec egg consumers. The participants were asked if they would consume the enriched eggs, and if they preferred the eggs offered as a specialty item, or if all eggs should be enriched (i.e. industry-wide change). To these options were paired prices, which varied across version of the survey.
The cost of this initiative which consists of changing the hen’s diet, is small to producers. Therefore, we worked with the following hypotheses. If high vitamin-D egg becomes an industry-wide initiative, the increase in retail price would be 5 cents per dozen. Alternatively, if the vitamin-D eggs become a specialty product we could envision an increase of 75 cents per dozen, based on the premium on Omega-3 egg.
With these price hypotheses the following results were found: 28% of respondents do not want to buy vitamin D eggs; 58% prefer that vitamin D eggs become the norm (5 cents/dozen premium) and 14% prefer that vitamin D eggs be offered as specialty eggs (75 cents/dozen premium).
It is interesting to examine the comments of individuals who declared not wanting to purchase the high vitamin-D eggs. Among this group of participants, many stated that they already get enough vitamin D through supplements (27% ) or by consuming milk and fish (14%). Among that same category, 21% express concerns regarding the fact that this will make the hen’s diet ‘unnatural’. One could debate if the hen’s current diet is natural, nevertheless this concern is a serious issue for these participants.
The insight gained from this research does not give a clear-cut answer into how the industry should proceed to offer high vitamin-D eggs. However, it indicates that almost a third of participants do not show interest in this type eggs. One possibility would be to go ahead with a vitamin-D eggs norm and to create specialty eggs that would be have the previous content of vitamin-D, since our results indicate that consumers who do not want vitamin D eggs would be willing to pay a premium to avoid the change. It is up to the producers and other stakeholders to make the final decision based on how they would like to see these eggs brought to market.