2020 US egg industry, a year in review

While COVID-related struggles seemed to be popular among conversation and industry news, other events occurred. Here is a look at some of the 2020 U.S. egg industry happenings.

(Terrence O’Keefe)
(Terrence O’Keefe)

The year 2020 was full of surprises and challenges associated with the global pandemic. The COVID-19 virus led to serious changes in various ag markets, including egg markets, with the foodservice and further processing sectors particularly struggling. While those struggles seemed to be popular among conversation and industry news, other events occurred. Here is a look at some of the U.S. egg industry happenings during the year 2020. 

Expansions

In February, permits for a new egg production facility that will be part of Cooper Farms' operations were granted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). According to a notice on the ODA website, the agency has awarded a final permit to install and a final permit to operate for the Cooper Farms-affiliated Golden Heritage Egg Farm. The facility is expected to have six barns that will house about 4 million hens, reported the Daily Advocate.

In September, as plans for Hillandale Farms' to expand its operations near Hicksville, Ohio, the company learned it will receive tax abatements from the county. The Defiance County Commission met with Jerry Hayes, the county's economic development director to discuss a proposed Enterprise Zone Agreement for Hillandale Farms. That agreement includes a 70% tax exemption for ten years. According to a press release posted on the Defiance County Commission's Facebook page, Hillandale will construct four new layer barns, an additional manure storage shed, supplementary egg handling and sorting machinery, an additional driveway and site improvements for the Hicksville complex. The company is investing an estimated $26 million for the project. Within three years of the expansion, the company plans to add 16 permanent full-time positions, which will amount to roughly $332,800 in annual wages.

On December 15, the Cal-Maine Foods Board of Directors approved a $40.1 million capital project to expand the company's cage-free egg production at its Guthrie, Kentucky, production facility. The project will include related site work and the additional infrastructure to convert existing conventional capacity to house approximately 1.5 million cage-free hens and 300,000 pullets. Construction will commence immediately, with initial conversions expected in early 2021. The first pullet placements are planned to be made by summer 2021 and the first layer house is expected to be finished by fall 2021. Project completion is expected by late 2022. The company plans to fund the project through a combination of available cash on hand, investments, and operating cash flow.

Closures

In April, Rembrandt Foods announced plans to close its egg processing plant in Neosho, Missouri. The facility's final day of operations was expected to be in mid-June. The company cited a competitive global egg market as a factor in deciding to close the plant. The workload at the Neosho facility was expected to be transferred to the plant in Iowa.

Partnerships

In May, plant-based egg company JUST and Michael Foods announced a partnership to bring the plant-based JUST Egg to millions of more consumers in the U.S. Under the arrangement, Michael Foods will be the exclusive manufacturer, supplier and distributor of JUST Egg to foodservice and food ingredient customers who are already familiar with and are in search of a unique, plant-based egg product.

Acquisitions

On July 1, Michael Foods acquired Henningsen Foods from Japan's Kewpie Corporation. Henningsen Foods is a manufacturer of value-added egg, meat and poultry products founded in 1889, and most recently was owned by Kewpie Corporation. Products made by Henningsen Foods include dehydrated eggs and meats used in sports nutrition, sauces and dressings, noodles and pet foods, along with other food ingredients. Headquartered in Omaha, Henningsen Foods operates three manufacturing facilities in Nebraska. Michael Foods stated that Henningsen's operations will be fully integrated into the Michael Foods network by the end of 2020.

In June, Glenn Hickman, president of Hickman's Family Farm confirmed that in regard to Central Valley Eggs, "Proterra Partners, a private equity group based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, acquired the ownership interests of Western Milling and Opal Foods." In October, Opal Foods announced that Rose Acre Farms and Weaver Eggs have purchased AGR Partners' entire interest in Opal Foods.

On December 14, Michael Foods announced its second acquisition of the year. It agreed to acquire the Almark Foods plants in Arizona and Tennessee. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the first calendar quarter of 2021. The two plants to be acquired by Post Holdings produce hard-boiled and deviled egg products. Upon completion of the acquisition, Almark will be combined with Post's existing Michael Foods egg business. The financial results of Almark are expected to be split between Post's Foodservice and Refrigerated Retail segments.

On December 17, Free-range and pasture-raised egg company Egg Innovations acquired the protein-centric fresh snacking brand PECKISH, in an all-stock deal.

Deaths

Fred R. Adams Jr., 88, founder and chairman emeritus of Cal-Maine Foods Inc. died on Sunday, March 29.

Gene Gregory, 79, former president and CEO of United Egg Producers, died December 3, 2020.

Roger Giroux, 82, owner of Giroux's Poultry Farm, died December 5, 2020.

Worth noting

According to a press release from Vital Farms, issued on July 9, the company applied to list its common stock on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol VITL. Vital Farms began its first day as a publicly-traded company on July 31, after raising nearly $205 million in an initial IPO.

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