As avian influenza (AI) continues to affect the current supply of shell eggs and further pasteurized egg products, here is a summary of the latest industry briefing.
On June 2, 2015, the American Egg Board, along with United Egg Producers and Urner Barry, hosted a call to provide an update about avian influenza for key industry stakeholders. Egg farmers and government officials are taking every possible measure to investigate the cause and halt the outbreak, preventing its spread to other egg-producing states.
The last reported case of avian influenza in a commercial laying flock occurred on May 29, 2015. This brought the total for the infected population to 35 million laying hens in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This comprised 12 percent of all layers in the U.S. on 25 layer farms, with 30 million hens dedicated to the egg products industry lost to this disease. According to current estimates, there is a 30 percent shortfall in the further processed egg supply.
Due to the spread of the disease, several larger breakers (those facilities used to make egg products) are experiencing disruptions in supply. Further processors in the industry are utilizing every resource to find shell eggs that can be converted to egg products.
The egg industry is working closely with state and federal officials on key AI response issues, including euthanasia of flocks, management of mortality on farms, indemnity provisions that ensure affected farms can recover, and research into possible AI vaccines.
Farms with unaffected flocks are following strict biosecurity measures to prevent further spread of the disease.
America’s egg farmers are working hard to find sources for their manufacturing partners and foodservice customers. However, due to the current supply disruption, there may be some shortages. Several steps have been taken or are being examined to help alleviate product shortfalls:
- The Netherlands was reinstated to export egg products to the U.S.
- The U.S. currently exports between five to six percent of its further processed egg supply; some or a good portion of this might be used for domestic customers instead.
- Suppliers outside of affected areas are going to be ramping up production when possible to help boost supplies of further processed egg ingredients.
- Some of the shell egg supply might be diverted to breaker facilities.
The American Egg Board has prepared messaging that is available for retailers and producers to help explain this temporary situation to consumers.
In the midst of challenges, it is sometimes difficult to find or acknowledge good news. However, there are several points to keep in mind in light of recent developments.
- Our latest research shows that consumer confidence remains high:
- Nearly 2/3 of Americans haven’t noticed any recent news about AI.
- Nearly 80 percent of Americans say that knowing about AI doesn’t affect their consumption of eggs.
- Nearly 90 percent of Americans believe eggs are safe to eat.
- This last point is perfectly valid—it is safe to eat eggs:
- AI facilities are not allowed to ship shell eggs to market.
- All further processed egg products are pasteurized and continue an unbroken safety record that spans more than forty years.
- Pasteurization inactivates AI.
- Eggs are completely safe to eat when handled and cooked properly. In fact, despite recent price fluctuations, eggs are still an inexpensive source of high-quality protein and other important nutrients. People should be comfortable in the safety of eggs and continue to enjoy eating them.
The American Egg Board continues to monitor the avian influenza situation and will provide relevant information as it becomes available.