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DSM in Animal Nutrition & Health

Nutrition, safety, sustainability: carotenoids have got it covered for egg color

Eggs are a staple food in many different cultures and countries around the world. A thousand billion eggs are consumed worldwide every year, and global egg production has been steadily rising for over a decade, from just over 50 million tonnes in 2001 to over 65 million tonnes p.a. in 2011. 
Nutrition, safety, sustainability_egg color

Consumers associate nutritional benefits directly with egg yolk color. Regional preferences vary, but all consumers want their egg yolks to be homogeneously pigmented. Feed carotenoids, such as Carophyll®, help meet this consumer demand through the delivery of vibrant and consistent color to egg yolks. Canthaxanthin and apo-ester from Carophyll® are nature-identical carotenoids, and their chemical structures and functional properties are indistinguishable from carotenoid pigments found in plants.

Delivering nutritional benefits

Eggs are an ideal nutritional delivery system containing proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. The presence of carotenoids in egg yolks protects some of the nutrients in the yolk and delivers additional health benefits to the consumer. Carotenoids are antioxidants that help detoxify free radicals - activated oxygen compounds that attack cells in humans. For the egg industry to deliver consistently colored yolks, the ingestion and deposition of carotenoids in the yolk must be closely controlled.

Research show that canthaxanthin is deposited more effectively in the yolk compared with a natural extract equivalent. By stabilizing the egg yolk and protecting it against oxidation, canthaxanthin offers a better protection of carotenoids in the egg yolk, and so ensures that a higher level of carotenoids is retained in the egg yolk.

Increased canthaxanthin concentration in egg yolks is associated with increased resistance to oxidative stress3. Experiments have proven that supplementing a breeder’s diet with Carophyll® Red significantly increases the anti-oxidative status of the egg yolk and of the newly hatched chicks. As a result, the hatching rate of chicken eggs is significantly increased1,2,3.

Are carotenoids safe?

Carotenoids are classified as feed additives in the European Union. Feed additives are strictly regulated in order to guarantee food safety. Carotenoids were listed as feed additives for the first time in the 1970s. In 2003, the European Commission (EC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) initiated a process to re-assess all feed additives. EFSA has already published several opinions on the subject4.

Early in 2014, the safety for consumers and the efficacy of canthaxanthin for poultry was confirmed. The consequences of dioxins entering the food chain and reaching the consumer can be catastrophic, as experienced in Belgium in 1999. Since then, feed and food operators have been more aware of the risks of dioxin contamination and of the importance of increasing their own control. “Extracted from Nature” does not automatically mean “safe”.

As a consequence, leading retailers have looked into the subject more closely. In 2010, for example, France’s largest supermarket chain – which accounts for 25% of all retail egg sales in the country – decided to allow nature-identical carotenoids in their eggs. In 2012, the leading supermarket chain in Belgium, which commands a 23% market share, did the same.

Denmark and Norway are also good examples of this revolution. In 2012, taking into account the safety, sustainability and efficiency of nature-identical carotenoids, the entire egg industry in these two countries decided to revoke a ban on nature-identical carotenoids that had been in place for more than 20 years.

Sustaining great color

Sustainability for DSM means caring for People, Planet and Profit, for customers, associates and employees. One of today’s greatest challenges is to ensure prosperity without destroying the natural foundations upon which life depends. By manufacturing vitamins and carotenoids identical to those found in nature, DSM helps protect the planet’s resources.

DSM was the first company to synthesize carotenoids on a commercial scale, starting with the production of ß-carotene in 1954. Today, DSM manufactures carotenoids for use in animal and human nutrition and health. DSM’s facilities for the production of carotenoids for feed are subject to strict regulations, benefiting from the highest standards of quality, safety and traceability.

Contrary to popular belief, extracted carotenoids are not more sustainable than nature-identical carotenoids. Information is now available about the environmental impact of nature-identical carotenoids in comparison to the environmental cost of producing the same level of color in 100,000 eggs. The use of nature-identical yellow carotenoids reduces energy consumption by 66%, CO2 emissions by 91%, and SO2 equivalents by 98%, with zero land use. Likewise, the use of nature-identical red carotenoids reduces energy consumption by 80%, CO2 emissions by 77%, and SO2 equivalents by 96%. These reports5 support the use of nature-identical carotenoids as a sustainable nutritional solution to optimize egg yolk color in line with consumer preferences.


Rosa et al, 2012. Poultry Science 91 :660–666

Surai P., 2012. Part 1. World's Poultry Science Journal, 68:465-476. Part 2. World's Poultry Science Journal, 68:717-726

Zhang et al, 2011. Poultry Science 90 :1516–1522


5 Saling P. et al 2006. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture vol 29(1)