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Feed for Thought

Egg Production

A kind of chicken-and-egg situation

April 9, 2012

During Easter time, eggs are in great demand all over Europe, either to paint as a celebration of spring or simply to use in cooking pastries. But, in 2012, consumers tended to grumble about egg prices due to a shortage in supply.

European regulation is pointed out as the “big” reason for this shortage, specifically, European application of the new regulation. Regardless, its application is clear: peak price. Depending on the country and its own supply chain, prices have doubled or more. In a French supermarket at the beginning of April, a dozen eggs were bought priced between $2-$5, depending on the means of production (standard to Bio to free-range eggs). Pasta and pastry industries face the same increase in their supply chain, even if the eggs used by the industries are not yet produced in the new, normalized cages. Some countries are furious about the “manipulation of the market by Brussels,” said Czech President Vaclav Klaus to The reason is well-known: The new regulation about cage’s size means investments, and farmers must stop production during the renovation. Some countries like Poland, Spain or Italy are late (perhaps half their production has yet to conform), some others are nearly there (less than 8 percent of hens in France), and some are fully complying (see our January post).

Animal production might learn from recent history and look at the prices on the German market. The rules had been anticipated there. In 2009/2010, prices were higher as the German farmers invested, and some neighboring countries made a profit. Now, the wheels have turned, and the European Commission reminds everybody that this “new” regulation had been launched… twelve years ago. So, every farmer who previously complied with the rule is now in a very good position, even if prices of raw materials lessen the rewards. 

And, the segmentation of production is sky rocketing, making comparison more and more difficult. For example, in France, Bio (labeled 0 on the egg), free-range (labeled 1 on the egg) and grounded hens (labeled 2) represent between a quarter and a third of total production. Egg proteins still remain the least expensive animal proteins.

At this point, I remember that in India, during the last VIV-Ildex in Bangalore, I saw an ad about eggs being the protein to develop. In convenient forms for infants to old people, eggs might even replace milk, the main protein in India, where 40 percent of the total population is vegetarian. It is very interesting to point out that during the same week I saw ads on the town roads proclaiming “be kind to animals, become vegetarian.” You surely know that India is the top milk producer and consumer in the world, and that the country has some difficulties dealing with slaughtering of cattle in some states, even if it is now third in the international beef meat market (mainly buffalo). It’s ominous that producers have to get rid of old hens, too, but nowhere did I find a sacred hen ritual.

What is sure is that eggs have a promising future, even if no one can answer the very perplexing question about what came first – the chicken or the egg.

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