Spend Matters welcomes this guest article by Emma Jayne Smith of Mintec.
It may be time to slow down on the egg cracking, as egg prices have risen sharply in the last month and are now up 88% year-on-year, with an expectation that they will keep rising.
Egg prices have more than doubled in the last month. A total of 46 million chickens and turkeys have been killed since mid December 2014 by the worst outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in US history. With 37 million of these cases being part of the laying flock (roughly 12% of the total US laying flock), is it any surprise egg prices are on the rise? In one week alone in early May, 1.1 million egg laying hens were killed at a large layer operation in Iowa, the largest egg producing state. Recent estimates show that up to half of Iowa’s laying flock has been affected by the outbreak; with reports classifying this as a disaster for the industry.
Help is on the horizon, however, to cope with the increasing egg shortage, as the US looks to increase egg imports. Last week, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service certified egg products from the Netherlands as being suitable for import into the US, where previously, only Canadian produce was certified in this way. This would be the first time in more than a decade that the US has bought eggs from Europe, as the domestic market is normally well able to meet both domestic supply and export needs. The imported egg products will be used primarily for commercial baking and in processed foods. This leads the US one step closer to a solution for the crisis currently facing US bakeries.
If Avian Flu wasn’t enough for the egg market, the ban of battery caged eggs being sold in California has also had an impact on egg prices. A new law came into operation on Jan. 1, 2015 requiring farmers to house hens in cages with enough space to stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn their bodies around. Chickens will now require at least 116 square inches of floor space each. The majority of chickens in the US are kept in small battery cages, much closer to 67 square inches than the new regulated 116. As a result, the majority of US egg producers can no longer sell eggs in California, which consumes one third of US eggs each year. This has seen egg prices increase as farmers will either be spending on replacing their battery cages with alternative structures, reducing the size of their flocks, or both.
Will what was once an everyday product become a luxury if prices do not stabilize?