Abstract: Hempseed (HS) is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, with approximately 17% of total fatty acids as alpha-linolenic acid. As such, HS and its oil may be used in hen diet formulations to produce eggs enriched in essential fatty acids. Because omega-3 eggs have the potential for unpleasant aromas and flavors, the current study was designed to assess the fatty acid profile and sensory attributes of eggs procured from hens consuming diets containing hempseed oil (HO) or HS. A total of 48 individually caged White Bovan hens received 1 of 6 diets containing 4%, 8%, 12% HO, 10%, 20% HS or 0% hemp (w/w) for 12 wk. Total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content was highest in the 12% HO group (15.3 mg/g of yolk) compared to the control (2.4 mg/g of yolk). Trained panellists (n= 8) found no significant differences (P≥ 0.05) in aroma or flavor between cooked eggs from different dietary treatments, with the exception of sweet flavor. The 4% HO group yielded the least sweet eggs compared to the 20% HS group, which was highest. For yolk color, L*, a*, and b* values (Mean ± SEM) for control eggs were 61.2 ± 0.10, 1.1 ± 0.05, and 43.0 ± 0.22, respectively. Addition of hemp led to significant (P < 0.001) reductions in L*, and significant increases in a* and b*, with the largest changes observed in the 20% HS treatment (L*= 58.7 ± 0.10; a*= 5.8 ± 0.05; b*= 60.5 ± 0.22). The results show that hemp use in hen diets leads to increased omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content and color intensity of egg yolks, but does not have adverse effects on the sensory profiles of the cooked eggs.
Practical Application: This study provides evidence that HS and hempseed oil (HO) can safely be utilized as feed ingredients for laying hens to produce table eggs that are enriched in essential fatty acids. Additionally, the eggs procured from these hens had similar aroma and flavor compared to eggs from hens not fed any hemp. The greater the dietary hemp inclusion, the more pigmented the resulting yolks became in terms of darkness, redness, and yellowness.