With egg prices steadily on the rise in the wake of one of the worst outbreaks of avian influenza on record, and in anticipation of a resulting nationwide egg shortage, egg suppliers, distributors, and retailers should take extra steps now to protect their investments, according to experts at Tosca, one of the nation's largest reusable packaging and supply chain solutions providers.

"Eggs are fragile to begin with, and damage to them along the supply chain can be quite costly," says Eric Frank, president of Tosca. "But now, with dramatically less supply and mounting prices, implementing safeguards to keep eggs as fresh and as protected as possible is more critical than ever before."

Tosca offers the following tips for egg suppliers, distributors, and retailers looking to reduce the risk of loss on their investments:

  1. Don't delay cooling. Research has shown that the sooner an egg is chilled to 45 degrees F, the fresher it is. To ensure maximum egg freshness, suppliers should strive to get eggs to 45 degrees as soon as possible. Using egg containers that allow for maximum ventilation can ensure a more efficient egg cool-down process.
  2. Get tough on transport. Corrugated cardboard is more easily damaged with weight or moisture, which can crush the eggs it carries. Investing in reusable plastic containers (RPCs) designed especially for strength, durability, and optimal egg protection can reduce egg shrink from farm to fork by 50 percent.
  3. Stock more sturdily. Why risk in-store damage caused by manually stocking egg cartons shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes? Take advantage of innovative new egg container technologies that allow for one touch restocking, reducing the amount of handling and labor required to fill empty shelves.
  4. Handle with care. Regardless of your role in the egg supply chain, egg quality depends largely on the skill and care of handlers. Spend 20 or 30 minutes with your staff going over best practices for egg handling, packing, transporting, and/or stocking to ensure that all employees follow proper protocol and to minimize damage caused by mishandling.

With the necessary eradication of many of the country's egg-laying hens on account of avian influenza, we are on the verge of a very real egg shortage, which means that prices for this precious commodity are only going to continue to rise over the coming months," Frank says.

Taking one or more of these simple steps now can save tens of thousands of dollars in the very near term—and hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the year.