Since I was very young, eggs were an important part of my life. Eggs were seen as the cheapest, most nutritious form of protein available to humankind. Chicken, fish and pork came next with beef and lamb only for festive occasions. Beef and lamb were imported foods and relatively expensive to be included in the daily menu. We obviously weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths. However, as I grew older, my taste for meat slowly seemed to wear off. Firstly, meat seemed too heavy on the stomach and too much trouble to store and cook. Moreover, the over consumption of meat was said to cause high blood pressure, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases, coupled with the high intake of salt, sugar and fat.
Over time, and having done some research on food, I began to look for alternative sources of protein and iron which veggies were said to lack. I discovered that eggs were more or less a whole food as the bright orange yoke and white were the first nourishment chicks received before breaking out of their shells.
At some stage in my childhood, eggs were a constant dietary item for us growing kids. It wasn’t boring as eggs came in various forms, being an essential ingredient in breads, noodles, cakes, pan cakes, pastries and on their own, boiled, scrambled, fried, poached, steamed, curried etc. Eggs are easy to eat, to digest and swallow for toddlers to elderly grandparents.
Eggs were an affordable nutritious food especially when meat, fish and milk were beyond the reach of low income and hardcore poor families. The market price of eggs remained relatively stable at 30+sen per egg until a sudden jump that seemed to spiral beyond 40 sen per egg. I was shocked to see ordinary battery hens eggs priced at RM4.00++ to RM6.00 for a tray of 10 eggs. Those specialized eggs, e.g. Omega eggs, lower cholesterol egg etc seemed ridiculously priced from RM10.00 ++ . These eggs were a little bigger than quails eggs but costs ‘the earth’, so to speak.
The cost of eggs would now eat into a larger portion of the budget of hard core poor and low income families. There still are people supporting families earning RM500 or less despite the minimum wage bar of RM1,100 per month. With the imposition of GST or SST in Malaysia and the fluctuation of petrol prices, commodity prices have sky-rocketed to such levels that powdered milk, infant formula, vegetables sold by weight, dried fish (ikan masin, ikan bilis etc), lentils, pulses, spices, soya based products, fruits etc have become high enough to force low income wage earners to eat less nutritious meals, having to forego better nutrition, including eggs.
It is amazing that government health authorities don’t seem to see the link between staying healthy and nutrition in our daily diet. Being undernourished has a ripple effect causing low immunity and more ill health among the population. In segmented, narrow thinking, health has nothing to do with the economy.
The lack of proper nutritious food also leads people to depend on foods or substances to stave hunger but are health destroying, like sugar, drugs, fatty high cholesterol foods, plain carbohydrates and many other things.
I was once told that a teacher discovered why a pupil was always drinking water. The pupil, who came from a hardcore poor family said, “Drinking water makes me feel less hungry, as I don’t have enough to eat everyday.” I also remember, when I was in school, a classmate of mine telling us that when times were hard, she only had rice with salt and water to eat for meals. These were shocking revelations to me, who was lucky enough to be provided full nutritious meals everyday that I took for granted. That was when I learned that not everyone lived the same life.
Unless the government of the day gets its priorities right, we are in danger of seeing more cases of illness caused by under nourishment among the low income and hard core poor that are avoidable. In this pandemic climate, more people become needlessly vulnerable to the corona virus and other diseases despite the observance of necessary SOPs and protection measures due to being malnourished.