High egg prices mean an opportunity for substitutes like plant based eggs. : NPR
Back to Forty Farms
Americans love eggs. And it’s a consumable love. We eat about 280 eggs a year (more than half an egg a day).
But lately, that love is paying a heavy price: The price of eggs has been approximately tripled since the pandemic began and egg shortages are hitting parts of the country. That combination has created rare opportunities for the substitutes.
Prices of most foods has increased in the past year and while that has caused a lot of shock and hardship for people across the country, egg prices have reached an exceptional level. Eggs are often thought of as a cheap, reliable source of protein – should be eaten when other things get expensive.
When the price of eggs went up, people were very emotional.
Bill Lapp, president of Advanced economic solutions, a food industry consultant. “It’s similar to driving on the highway and seeing gas prices at $5.30.”
Of course, it’s not just emotions: Egg prices have outpaced the price of almost everything else in the economy.
Reason? A lot of it involves the usual suspects: rising energy prices and rising prices for feed, packaging, and labor.
With eggs, however, there’s another culprit: A devastating bird flu that has killed millions of chickens over the past year. Egg supplies in the US have plummeted, and in some places, eggs are hard to come by.
“A lot of people worry about not being able to get eggs,” said Ron Kern, a chicken farmer in Nampa, Idaho.
He hears this from his customers: they go to the supermarket and there are no eggs. “These giant freezers are empty,” he said. That has people worried that eggs might start to be hard to find.
That egg anxiety gave Kern an idea.
Stacey Vanek Smith
Kern run Back to Forty Farms in Nampa, Idaho, it was 4 p.m. – chicken feeding time.
Kern entered the coop with a bucket of food, and hundreds of chickens rushed in from all directions: rushing out of the coop, rushing in from outside.
Back to Forty Farms
As the chickens pecked their food, Ron Kern and his son Tony picked up the eggs – a mixture of green, blue, white and brown. They are very careful with them. These eggs are valuable. Especially now.
A few years ago these eggs were packaged in boxes and sold for about $3 a dozen, but today, most of them go straight into the freeze dryer.
Freeze dry yellow dust
Instead of selling fresh eggs, Kern now freezes most of them.
The freeze dryers are about the size of a mini-fridge and a row of them are spaced apart in a small building near Kern’s chicken coop.
The eggs that Kern and his son have just collected will be cleaned, broken, whipped and poured into cookie sheets to be frozen in the dryer.
Freeze drying reduces eggs to bright yellow powder. “Looks like gold dust,” Kern commented. “I guess it’s gold dust, isn’t it?”
Back to Forty Farms
Proof is profit
Kern charges about $20 for a dozen of her frozen eggs. He told me it was a bargain: the eggs were barely heavy, kept for decades, didn’t lose any nutritional value and were housed in a small thin film, making them easy to store. easy.
And, crucially, it gives customers peace of mind: regardless of supply chain disasters, deadly flu outbreaks, skyrocketing prices, and the shortages the economy can inflict on us, they’re still there. will have his favorite breakfast dish.
The proof is in the profits. Monent Kern started selling her eggs online, orders pouring in from all over the country.
“Demand went crazy,” he recalls. “Every package that we put on our online store sold out within 30 seconds. They just… flew off the shelf,” he added: “I’m not even a fan of playing. words, but just watch.”
(By the way, no one, not even the author of the government reports, it seems possible to resist puns – they cannot be avoided.)
Economy vs egg economy
Basic economics tells us that when the price of something goes up, people buy less of it: Demand goes down.
But egg economics is a different story, says Bill Lapp. Even if the price of eggs goes up, people still buy them. This is what is called ‘inelastic demand’ in economics, which means it’s something people will buy no matter what.
Inelastic demand is usually spent on necessities like gasoline, electricity, etc. Eggs are an exception.
“Demand for eggs is pretty inelastic,” says Lapp. “It’s an inexpensive, convenient source of protein, and consumers love to shell and cook their eggs. Demand changes very slowly.”
Interested in a chickpea omelette?
Demand can be slow to change, but supply is another story. The initial circumstances surrounding eggs over the past few years have created great business opportunities for food companies.
All Kinds of Shredded Egg Alternatives: Not only freeze-dried eggs, but also plant-based egg products. It’s usually a liquid made from soybeans or beans that looks like scrambled eggs when you cook them up.
For the first time last year, egg substitutes were cheaper than real eggs. And, not surprisingly, sales of egg substitutes increased by almost 20%, according to market research firm based in Chicago, IRI.
only eggscompany that produces scrambled eggs made from chickpeas, is said to have seen Sales increased about 17% compared to last year.
Right now, if you can make something that looks like an egg, tastes like an egg, and costs less than an egg, you can make a lot of money.
An unscientific taste test
But do egg substitutes really taste like eggs? Do they have a chance to squeeze between Americans and their beloved eggs? I gathered some of my NPR colleagues to try some egg alternatives and see if they could crack the code.
I don’t think eggs will lose their superstar status any time soon (one of my colleagues commented that plant-based eggs taste like potatoes, another colleague described them as “super fun. .. but nothing like eggs”).
Stacey Vanek Smith
That’s all, yolk
But never fear, egg lovers! Science is moving fast: The first plant-based fried egg has just been developed by an Israeli startup, and investors are pouring billions of dollars into food startups struggling to solve the elusive egg problem.
One thing is for sure: If egg prices remain high and supply is volatile, customers may begin to seriously seek out those eggs.