Eggs with whitish yolks, laid by hens fed with Japanese rice, are attracting attention in Japan amid growing public consciousness about food safety and the government’s efforts to boost rice production.
The color of an egg yolk reflects the color of what the hen that laid it was fed.
Rice-fed hens lay eggs with yolks that are close to white, in contrast to the yellow yolks of eggs from chickens given feed that mainly comprises imported corn.
Some believe that eggs with whitish yolks may spread widely across Japan, backed by the government’s support for rice production for livestock feed, as part of measures to increase the country’s feed and food self-sufficiency rate.
Demand for rice as a staple food is falling by around 80,000 tons every year. In response, the agriculture ministry is promoting a policy of maintaining rice paddies by encouraging production of rice as livestock feed. It has set a production target of 1.1 million tons of such rice in fiscal 2025, up sharply from the 110,000 tons of rice set aside for that purpose in fiscal 2013.
Takeuchi poultry farm in the town of Otofuke, Hokkaido, raises its hens with feed that is 99.8 percent locally produced — 68 percent of which is rice grown in Hokkaido.
The eggs are called Kometsuya, a portmanteau of kome (rice) and tsuya (luster). Sales manager of the farm, Yasuhiro Takeuchi, says naturally sweet Kometsuya eggs are gradually gaining recognition.
The farm’s annual usage of rice for chicken feed was 80 tons in 2011, the year it was launched, and this year, marking the product’s fifth year, it aims to raise the figure to 170 tons.
The Tokiwa agricultural cooperative for poultry farming, located in the town Fujisaki, Aomori Prefecture, in northeastern Japan, is shipping Kometama eggs, from chickens that are pasture-raised on mixed feed, 68 percent of which is rice.
Kometama sales from January to July this year rose 13 percent from the same period last year. As the poultry that produces Kometama eggs live a relatively less stressful life compared with that experienced by chickens reared in cages, their eggs taste good and are receiving positive feedback from consumers, an official from the cooperative said.
In the Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza shop, an antenna store promoting products from Hokkaido in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, sales of Kometsuya in July increased 40 percent from the year before. Fifty-one packages of Kometsuya, each containing six eggs and priced at ¥432, including tax, have been sold, according to the shop.
Many of the purchasers of the eggs are women in their 40s to 60s, who picked them up for better food safety and as part of dietary education for their children or grandchildren, said an official from the shop.
“In the not-too-distant future, white sunny-side ups will be part of the daily cuisine for Japanese,” the official added.