Bob and Marie Gallo, whose family makes wine enjoyed at countless dinner tables, won an honor Thursday that has more to do with breakfast.
They received the Good Egg Award from the state’s egg industry for their many efforts on behalf of the arts, education, conservation and other causes.
About 350 people turned out at the DoubleTree Hotel in Modesto for the 51st annual Good Egg Breakfast, which as usual featured custom-made omelets and the surprise award.
“We can’t look around this community and beyond without seeing the tremendous philanthropic work this family has done and been responsible for,” presenter John Scheuber said.
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Bob Gallo is the son of Julio Gallo, who with brother Ernest founded E.&J. Gallo Winery in Modesto in 1933. It is now the world’s largest such producer, with operations in Modesto, Livingston, Fresno, coastal regions, Washington and several other nations.
The Gallos’ causes include the Gallo Center for the Arts, UC Merced, the National Agricultural Science Center, preservation of farmland and wildlife habitat, and many others.
Past awards have gone to a wide variety of people, including egg industry leaders, educators and, in 1970, Gov. Ronald Reagan.
The breakfast raises scholarship money for agriculture students at Modesto Junior College. This year, $400 each was presented to Denton Corbin of Ripon, Dominique Germann of Ceres, Kayla Sadler of Angels Camp, Brian Sampson of Yreka and Lauren Young of Altaville.
The guest speaker was a UC Davis expert on what to do with the manure from chickens and other livestock that are raised in huge numbers in California.
The waste can go into systems known as digesters, which use bacteria to extract methane that can be used as fuel, said Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian who specializes in poultry health and food safety. Methane is a potent source of climate-changing emissions, he said, but it turns into less harmful carbon dioxide when burned.
“Modern ag in my opinion is part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” he said.
California has about 10 digesters on dairy farms, including those supplying Fiscalini Cheese Co. near Modesto and Joseph Farms near Atwater. Pitesky said the cost could be reduced if several farms in an area feed their methane into a utility gas line.
Modesto’s hosting of the Good Egg Breakfast reflects the area’s key role in the industry. Stanislaus County produced an estimated 422.4 million eggs last year, with a total gross value of $32.7 million, according to its agricultural commissioner’s office.
Merced County reported 1.28 billion eggs and a gross value of $85.2 million in 2011. The 2012 report is not yet out.
San Joaquin County reported 240.6 million eggs and a gross value of $16.8 million last year.
The breakfast is sponsored by the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, the California Poultry Federation, the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.