Free range saltbush eggs could be the next niche product to hit local menus.
Recent research has found hens fed the saltbush plant as part of their diet produced eggs with a brighter yolk colour.
The saltbush eggs were also given the taste test seal of approval during a series of food sensory sessions, where around 120 consumers tasted a range of hard boiled and scrambled saltbush eggs.
The research is part of a 12 month project led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA, and funded by the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre.
SARDI is planning a potential larger scale research project on saltbush eggs next year.
Quotes attributable to SARDI Research Chief Livestock and Farming Systems Professor Alan Tilbrook
This exciting research has the potential to grow our egg industry, with the initial findings showing that saltbush could offer a sustainable option for free range poultry farmers to develop a niche product using a plant that can grow in really tough conditions.
The State Government’s Premium Food and Wine produced in our Clean Environment and Exported to the World economic priority is about creating opportunities for our state’s food industry to continue to grow and these latest findings are a perfect example of the innovative ways our research expertise can be used to achieve this.
The project identified that saltbush could be suitable for free range farms because the drought hardy plant required little or no irrigation once established and could cope with dry, hot summers.
The project team looked at whether free range hens would eat saltbush and what the consequences were for egg production and egg quality.
Preliminary findings showed there were no adverse effects on egg production, feed intake, the weight of the hen and egg quality. As part of the project, the layer hens were fed saltbush in the diet at rates of between 0% to 20%. The tests found eggs with 20% saltbush were the most preferred option with consumers.