After taking a hit in the market during most of 2005, the organic egg portion of the Upper Midwest greater egg market had an enthusiastic rebound in early 2006. As we reach mid-June, cage-free eggs have definitely slowed in movement; however, organic eggs are in good demand mostly brought on by the entrance of Wal-Mart into the retail organic foods market.
The fall of 2006 is anybody’s guess right now. What will new organic corn sell for; will a long hot summer affect organic production? Eight dollar corn in 2005 caused a few smaller Wisconsin and Iowa organic egg producers (1,000 to 1,800 layers) who were producing for co-ops or egg packers to leave the industry. At the same time this gave rise to a few new young couples to go to the bank, get a loan and build a 5,000 to 10,000 layer facility. Wisconsin led the charge into new layer and starter pullet housing – all state-of-the-art feeding, nesting and egg collection.
The winter of 2006 saw Iowa organic producers take a good look at their homemade or very old nesting equipment and make a decision to buy new proven products to eliminate labor time and floor eggs. The Midwest Poultry Convention in St. Paul in March was the focal point of their buying decisions; vendors came away with lots of smiles.
Quality organic feed is much sought after; mills in this area just getting into the organic feed business are having a trying time lining up quality organic grain. One feed for all birds during the laying cycle is no longer tolerated as leaders in this portion of the feed industry offer numbers of mixes to meet production and egg size standards. On-the-farm feed mixes were a leading cause of erratic production and egg size failures in Iowa. Producers learned very quickly why people go to the Land Grant Universities to get advanced degrees in poultry nutrition. It’s not as simple as pulling this ingredient out and adding that ingredient. New natural organic feed additives are coming into the trade; one product for control of E. coli has the attention of many.
Established organic feed companies are now offering poultry field service; some have added lines of equipment for sale that they feel have been most successful with their established customers. The need for crews to load, unload, vaccinate and beak trim is critical right now for organic producers. They don’t have enough bird numbers to attract full-time service in this regard and must hope for free time from the demands of the cage industry on these services.
Minnesota’s smaller organic producers are in great demand to fill spots in the booming “Farmers Markets”. There are now 140 farmers markets in Minnesota, with 44 in the Twin Cities alone; 3,706 nationwide. You know that the Upper Midwest organic egg business is alive and well when you see Wisconsin organic eggs from a major Wisconsin co-op in “King Kullen” grocery stores in the fashionable and famous Hamptons on Long Island, NY.