As a virulent avian influenza outbreak continues to spread across the Midwestern United States, some egg-dependent companies are contemplating drastic steps - importing eggs from overseas or looking to egg alternatives.
A spokeswoman for Archer Daniels Midland said that as egg supplies tighten and prices rise, the food processing and commodities company has received numerous inquiries from manufacturers about the plant-based egg substitutes it makes.
With a strong dollar bolstering the buying power of U.S. importers, some companies are scouting for egg supplies abroad.
"The U.S. has never imported any significant amount of eggs, because we've always been a very low-cost producer," said Tom Elam of FarmEcon, an agricultural consulting company. "Now, that's no longer the case."
The United States is grappling with its biggest outbreak of bird flu on record, which has led to the culling of 40 million birds. The virus has been confirmed on commercial farms and backyard flocks in 16 U.S. states and in Canada.
The highly infectious virus has not crossed over to humans in the United States, as it did in Asia following a 2003 outbreak, but transmission to humans is possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. - NY Daily News
Meanwhile, companies sticking with egg suppliers closer to home are facing sharply higher prices as a result of the outbreak. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. breaker eggs - which includes liquid, dried or frozen eggs used by food manufacturers - has disappeared due to the outbreak, according to Martin and federal data.
The outbreak has led to a sharp uptick in the wholesale price of such eggs, from 63 cents a dozen in late April, when the first egg-laying flock was reported infected, to $1.83 a dozen this week, Brown said.
The wholesale price of "shell eggs," typically sold in cartons at grocery stores, has also risen, from $1.19 a dozen in late April to $2.03 a dozen this week, Brown said.
Nevertheless, some food makers are turning to the more expensive shell eggs to supplement supplies, although that means an additional cost to send the eggs to a breaking facility that will crack the shells, Elam said.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs predict consumers will ultimately spend an additional $7.5 billion to $8 billion because of the egg supply squeeze.