Eggflation: What’s happening in the US and EU?
The egg industry is experiencing price surges and availability challenges, making eggs extremely expensive for consumers. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the United States and Europe have experienced price increases of approximately 70% and 30%, respectively. The precise causes of this high inflation are being debated both locally and globally. While a few groups blame the supply chain, others blame the pandemic and new government regulations. The truth is that a variety of factors are to blame for this situation, and there is no clear single explanation or way out, as of now.
Here are some underlying causes:
Worst Avian Flu Outbreak: A fatal avian flu outbreak has decimated the bird population, leaving farmers with far fewer hens in the shed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness is extremely contagious and lethal, killing 90-100% of infected chickens within 48 hours. The American Egg Board and the US Department of Agriculture estimate that 70% of the birds killed by the disease were egg-laying hens.
Dependence on Feed Prices: Since the end of 2020, the price of poultry feed has increased by 30-50%, accounting for 60-70 % of eggs’ costs. A significant portion of that is corn and soybean meal, the prices of which have been rapidly rising. If the price of corn and soybeans continues to rise in the global commodities market, the cost of eggs will rise even more.
COVID-19 as a Demand Influencer: During the pandemic, egg demand increased significantly. Because of the restrictions on human movement, more meals were prepared at home, and eggs were frequently purchased because of lockdowns.
Consumer Preferences Shift: As a result of high inflation and low income, consumers are looking for more affordable protein sources, which is driving up demand for eggs.
Growing Efforts Toward Cage-Free Production: The European Commission is expected to propose legislation to phase out cages in animal agriculture by 2027, a plan that has gained the support of a few major players in the sector. A similar trend is being observed in American countries.
Surging Fuel Prices: The cost of freight has risen as a result of rising fuel prices, which is another factor driving up the price of eggs.
The distinct functionalities and contribution of eggs to the sensorial characteristics of the end product, such as texture, softness, and taste, make them highly desirable ingredients in the food industry, particularly in the bakery segment. In addition, it also serves as an aerating, emulsifying, and binding agent.
As eggs are a versatile ingredient and are used in many dishes, the price rise serves as a good possibility for a surge in the price of other food commodities. As a result, consumers are constantly looking for egg replacement ingredients that perform similarly but are more consistent, less expensive, and label-friendly. Companies are constantly releasing solutions to help with the difficult task of reducing the amount of eggs used in recipes:
Kerry has introduced Biobake EgR, an enzyme solution that allows bakers to use up to 30% less egg content in a variety of products. The company claims that with the help of this reduction enzyme system, switching from caged to free-range or organic eggs is possible without increasing costs. The system could also reduce CO2 emissions by up to 14%.
The new Egg Replace from Ardent Mills is a 1:1 replacement for both dried and liquid whole eggs. The product, which is made from chickpea flour and three other ingredients, is gluten-free, vegan, and free of soy and other major food allergens.
Plantible Foods established a 140-acre Lemna farm in Texas and debuted Rubi Whisk, a plant-based egg substitute that “outperforms eggs in many applications.” RuBisCO, also known as “Rubi protein,” is the main component of Rubi Whisk. It has similar functionality to egg protein and can be found in a variety of products, such as baked goods, meat substitutes, plant-based products, and sports nutrition products.
Nepra Foods, based in Colorado, has announced the wholesale commercialization of its Essential brand Egg White Replacement Powder (EPB-ER1). This plant-based powder is intended for manufacturers looking to eliminate or reduce the amount of eggs used in their product formulation.
Puris announced the release of its first consumer brand, AcreMade Plant-Based Egg Substitute, formulated with yellow field peas, in October of last year. This shelf-stable product is currently used in baking. AcreMade, on the other hand, stated that in order to meet additional needs in other food applications, it will introduce additional frozen and chilled products in 2023.
The egg replacement ingredients that are currently available or have recently been introduced generally replace a portion of the egg in the product. Even if they have the potential to replace 100% of the egg content, they still face competition from eggs’ versatility. The target of these ingredients is somehow limited to a specific property of the egg, and thus there is a growing demand for 100% egg replacement, providing all of its nutritional, sensorial, and functional properties. Combining ingredients with different properties is one solution that can have some desirable synergistic effects. On the other hand, determining the compatibility of such ingredients with one another or with the final product will be fascinating to watch.