December 23, 2022

Hy-Line Launches Partnership to Provide Egg Protein to Malnourished African Children

(L-R) Brittney Roorda, Hy-Line Director of Marketing; Bruce Dooyema of Versova Egg Company; Dr. Jim Blessman of Blessman International; and Tom Dixon, Hy-Line Global Product Manager, discuss the partnership at Hy-Line's office.

South Africa, home to 60 million people is a country of extremes. It is a land of breathtaking scenery, eleven official languages, world famous National parks, ultramodern cities, but like so many countries in the world, it is plagued with extreme income disparity where a significant part of the population lives in abject poverty and suffers malnutrition. The World Bank determined South Africa to be among the most unequal counties in the world with 20% of the population living in extreme poverty with income of less than $2 per day.  Poverty and poor health outcomes go hand-in-hand. Unicef attributes 11.4% of deaths in South African children under five to low body weight. Three out of ten children are stunted, a condition which affects their growth and development (Unicef South Africa). Malnutrition contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty.  This story is in no way unique to South Africa but present worldwide to differing degrees.

With this as the backdrop, Hy-Line International approached Dr. Jim Blessman of Blessman International, located in one of the poorest areas of South Africa in northern Limpopo State.  Twenty years ago, Blessman and his family left the comforts of a successful medical career in suburban Des Moines, Iowa, USA, drawn to this remote part of the world to undertake the challenge to feed and improve the overall well-being for African children. Through many trials and obstacles, Blessman’s organization has grown today to feed some 60,000 children via ten food distribution hubs in the country. Seeing ‘our neighbor’ at work in South Africa, Hy-Line International together with Hy-Line South Africa reached out to Dr. Blessman to cooperate with his feeding program with the purpose to add ‘an-egg-a-day’ to the feeding program to further enhance his efforts by enhancing the nutritional content of the meals.  Blessman provides daily meals consisting of a basic grain and vegetable-based diet that the kids receive from Meals from the Heartland, also from Des Moines, which are shipped in container loads over several times per year. As a medical doctor, Dr. Blessman was well-aware of the health benefits associated with egg consumption and was eager to add ‘an egg-per-day’ to enhance the protein and vitamin content of his existing rations.

One egg contains 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of healthy fats, 80 calories all while providing:

  • Vitamin A: 6% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
  • Folate:  5% of the RDA 
  • Vitamin B5: 7% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B12: 15% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2: 15% of the RDA
  • Phosphorous: 9% of the RDA
  • Selenium: 22% of the RDA
  • Also contain amounts of vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, calcium and zinc

The immediate plan is to run a small pilot ‘proof of concept’ program in which Hy-Line International, Hy-Line South Africa, and Blessman International cooperate to provide a minimum of one fresh egg per day to his local feeding hub starting in early 2023 from a flock of Hy-Line Silver Brown ready-to-lay pullets. Phase one of the project will be to establish a robust, scientific study to track the health outcomes of a small cohort of children at Blessman’s nearby Mokopone location with the assistance of US medical professionals with oversight from a South African medical organization into mid-2023. After this ‘practice run’ at which time we are confident that the study is sound, we will launch the official study with an unreached group of children to provide the meal rations plus an egg-a-day from the flock to track and document well-being outcomes.  We anticipate this study will finish by mid-2024 at which time armed with scientific data, we will endeavor to upscale the program to bring the benefits of egg consumption to a much larger population to add egg protein to Blessman’s wider 60,000-child feeding program.

Hy-Line International and Hy-Line South Africa will place the started Hy-Line Silver Brown pullets in January 2023 which will result in eggs in a matter of a few short weeks while offering technical support and advice for best practices to maximize yields from the flock. The project will lean on the expertise of Mr. Bruce Dooyema of Versova Egg Company in Iowa, one of the largest egg producers in the US, who is consulting to assure success with the project contributing his vast knowledge and prior experience in Africa on similar projects. We look forward to further develop this project over the next years to improve the lives of under-nourished South African children and demonstrate the power of the egg as part of the solution to reduce world hunger and improve overall health outcomes worldwide.