U.S. per capita egg consumption averaged 374 eggs in the 1950s, but dropped to an average of 236 eggs in the 1990s. The primary culprit for this reduction in per capita egg consumption is believed to have been concern for the impact dietary cholesterol levels might have on serum cholesterol levels and the incidence of heart disease. Today, decades of research have shown that many other factors play a bigger role in determining serum cholesterol levels than does dietary cholesterol, and egg consumption has rebounded somewhat, and that bounce may be getting bigger.
Joanne Ivy, president, American Egg Board, said, “We are in the beginning stage of one of the most positive long-term growth eras for eggs that we have seen in decades.” She told the audience at the joint United Egg Producers and American Egg Board area meeting in Atlanta, “The primary reason for this is we are seeing a shift in how we eat in our country. Perhaps the most important part of this for eggs is the huge sustained growth and interest in protein.”
The interest in protein is fueled by research which has shown that eating protein-rich foods can provide a feeling of satiety and reduce total calorie consumption compared to eating high-carbohydrate foods. Dr. Mitch Kanter, executive director, Egg Nutrition Center, said, “Carbohydrates are taking a beating in the scientific literature.” He said that the current trend for more protein in diets has staying power; it is different from the Atkins diet fads of the past, because it is based on science and has research to back it up, and much of the Atkins diet hoopla was anecdotal. In short, the current move towards eating more protein-rich foods as a way to control weight and prevent obesity and diabetes is more about balanced healthy eating and doesn’t have the extreme exclusion of carbohydrates from the diet like Atkins.
Ivy said, “Orange is not the new black, protein is the new black. Protein has driven egg sales in the last three years and we see this continuing for the next five to ten years. We see this long-term; this is not a fad or trend.”
There is data to back up Ivy’s claims regarding egg sales. Urner Barry said that the average egg price in July of this year was the highest average price for July ever, and there was an ample supply of eggs on the market in July. Also, the USDA has forecast per capita egg consumption in the U.S. is 259 eggs in 2014, up 8 eggs from last year. Eggs are the only major animal protein to see an increase in per capita consumption since 2011, milk and beef have both seen declines while chicken and pork are at the same levels as 2011.