Last week was the Day of the Dead (not the movie!), the famous Mexican celebration that takes place during the All Saints’ Day under a marvelous syncretism of indigenous Mexican traditions and Catholicism.
Among many things used in the altars or offerings to the beloved ones are the marigold flowers, a native Mexican flower called cempasúchil, with its bright yellow and orange petals, so typical and traditional in Mexico this time of the year.
Marigold flowers are also known for their high pigment concentrations (lutein and zeaxanthin), a particular color that very well suits broiler skin and egg yolks. It was in the 1960s, if I am not wrong, that two Mexican researchers, Sergio Brambila and Carmen Mendoza, started the adventure of developing the use of marigold concentrate in poultry. At that time, sorghum, and corn to a lesser extent, was widely used in poultry feeds, so chickens and eggs were pale. The Mexican poultry industry was having problems with consumers' acceptance of the product. Well-pigmented chickens and egg yolks are a symbol of quality, freshness and nutritional value.
For years and years, the Mexican poultry industry relied on this natural domestic source, to a point that the pigment industry became very prosperous in the 80s and 90s. Things have changed over the years. Already 10 years ago, there were not enough marigold flowers produced in the country to meet the needs of the poultry industry.
This once-thriving industry unfortunately has lost its whole splendor as a result of several things. Cultivation moved first to Peru and then to China. So, what else is new. Now, Mexico imports 96% of its pigment needs from the big Asian power. China not only produces a lot, but has genetically improved it, has a better pest control and extraction efficiency. No wonder.
It is a pity that Mexico has lost its preponderance in marigold cultivation and carotenoid pigment extraction. The country is not self-sufficient, not only in grains and other things, but also in marigold flowers!
At least the marigold flowers used in the altars are still cultivated in the country. It would be the last straw if that wasn’t the case.
What do you think?