Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

Mung bean omelette, anyone? Sky-high egg prices open up the market to alternatives

Americans love eggs. And it is a love that consumes. We eat about 280 eggs a year (more than half an egg a day).

But lately that love has been costing us dearly: The price of eggs has nearly tripled since the start of the pandemic, and egg shortages are hitting parts of the country. That combination created a rare window of opportunity for substitutes.

Shocked consumers

The price of most food has increased over the last year and while this has caused many shocks and hardships for people across the country, the price of eggs has struck a particular chord. Eggs are often seen as a cheap and reliable source of protein, a go-to when other things get expensive.

When the price of eggs goes up, people get excited.

“It’s a hot button for consumers,” says Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a food industry consultant. “It’s similar to driving down the highway and seeing gas prices at $5.30.”

Of course, it’s not just emotional: The price of eggs has risen more than the price of almost anything else in the economy.

The reason? A lot has to do with the usual suspects: rising energy prices and rising feed, packaging and labor prices.

With eggs, though, there’s another culprit: A devastating bird flu has killed millions of chickens in the last year. The U.S. supply of eggs has plummeted and, in some places, it’s hard to get hold of them.

“A lot of people are worried that they won’t be able to get eggs,” says Ron Kern, a chicken farmer in Nampa, Idaho.

He hears it from his customers: they go to the supermarket and there are no eggs. “These huge freezers are empty,” she says. This worried people that eggs might start to be hard to find.

That existential angst gave Kern an idea.

Feeding time

Kern operates Back Forty Farms in Nampa, Idaho, where it’s 4:00 p.m., chicken-feeding time.

Kern enters the chicken coop with a bucket of feed, and hundreds of chickens rush in from all directions: fluttering off their perches, rushing in from outside.

While the chickens peck at their food, Ron Kern and his son Tony collect eggs, a mix of green, blue, white and brown. They are very careful with them. These eggs are precious. Especially now.

A few years ago, these eggs would have been packaged in boxes and sold for around $3 a dozen, but these days most of them end up straight into a freeze dryer.

Freeze-dried gold powder

Instead of selling fresh eggs, Kern now freeze-drys most of them.

The freeze dryers are about the size of a mini fridge, and a row of them buzzes in a small building next to Kern’s chicken coop.

The eggs that Kern and her son just collected will be cleaned, cracked, whipped and poured into cookie sheets that go into freeze dryers.

Freeze dryers reduce eggs to a bright yellow powder. “It looks like a kind of gold dust,” notes Kern. “I guess it’s some kind of gold dust, right?”

The proof is in the profits

Kern charges about $20 a dozen for its freeze-dried eggs. He tells me it’s a good deal: the eggs weigh next to nothing, keep for decades, lose no nutritional value and come in a mylar bag that stores easily.

And most importantly, it gives customers peace of mind: whatever supply chain disasters, deadly influences, price spikes, and shortages the economy might throw at us, they’ll still get their beloved breakfast dish.

The proof is in the profits. The moment Kern started selling her eggs online, orders poured in from all over the country.

“Demand has gone crazy,” he recalls. “Every single package we put into our online store sold out in 30 seconds. They just… fly off the shelves,” she adds, “I’m not even a pun, but there you have it.”

(Incidentally, no one, not even government reporters, seems able to resist egg puns: They are incapable of eggs.)

Economy vs Egonomics

Basic economics tells us that when the price of something goes up, people will buy less of it: demand goes down.

But economics is a different story, says Bill Lapp. Even when the price of eggs goes up, people buy them. This is what is called “inelastic demand” in economics, meaning that it is something people will buy no matter what.

Inelastic demand is usually reserved for necessities, such as gasoline, electricity, etc. Eggs are an exception.

“Demand for eggs is pretty inelastic,” Lapp says. “It’s a low-cost, convenient source of protein, and consumers really like cracking the shell and cooking the egg. Demand has slowly changed.”

Any interest in a mung bean omelette?

Demand may change slowly, but supply is another story. The exceptional circumstances surrounding eggs in recent years have created an important business opportunity for food companies.

All kinds of egg alternatives have popped up: not just freeze-dried eggs, but plant-based egg products as well. They are usually soy- or bean-based liquids that look like scrambled eggs when you cook them.

For the first time last year, egg alternatives were cheaper than real eggs. And, not surprisingly, sales of egg substitutes are up nearly 20 percent, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI.

JUST Egg, which makes a mung bean-based scrambled egg product, has reportedly seen an increase in sales of about 17 percent over the past 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 exceptionally unscientific taste test

But do substitute egg products really taste like eggs? Do they have a chance to come between Americans and their beloved eggs? I rounded up a few of my colleagues at NPR to try out some of the egg alternatives and see if they could crack the code.

I don’t think eggs will lose their superstar status anytime soon (one of my coworkers remarked that plant-based eggs tasted like potatoes, another coworker described them as “super cool…but nothing like eggs”).

That’s all, yolks

But fear not, egg lovers! Science is moving fast: The first plant-based fried egg has just been developed by a startup in Israel, and investors are pouring billions of dollars into food startups that are working to tackle the elusive egg.

One thing’s for sure: If egg prices stay high and supply remains unpredictable, customers may start looking seriously for the egg.

Content Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button