Empty shelves have been gracing English supermarkets for weeks. There is a lack of eggs. Cheap eggs are now becoming scarce in Germany, and in 2023 the expensive ones will probably be too.
Update from November 29th: Inexpensive eggs in particular are likely to become scarce in Germany over the winter. As the President of the Central Association of the German Poultry Industry, Friedrich-Otto Ripke, confirms, customers tended to buy cheap eggs during inflation: barn farming instead of free range, conventional rearing instead of organic. With cheap eggs there is a risk of supply bottlenecks, says Riepke. Expensive organic and free-range eggs are still available in sufficient numbers.
Knapp is also due to the fact that, in addition to the changed purchasing behavior, an unfavorable combination of falling supply and rising demand is sweeping the egg market empty: the ongoing avian influenza has decimated the laying hen population throughout Europe, and many farms have also reduced their animal population due to high feed prices. The Netherlands, which otherwise supplies the majority of German eggs that the Federal Republic does not produce itself, therefore produces less. So there are significantly fewer eggs.
At the same time, demand is increasing worldwide, says the chairman of the Federal Egg Association, Henner Schönecke: “It is the case that Americans are currently buying eggs in Europe because they do not have enough themselves.” Every producer is considering where to sell his eggs. This could mean that certain eggs are missing from the range in food retail. Situations like the one in Great Britain, where discounters sometimes limit purchases to one or two packs per customer, are not to be expected in Germany.
For 2023, however, Schönecke fears that the egg crisis could spread to free-range eggs. Because of the avian influenza and the associated stall requirement for laying hens in affected regions, these eggs could also become scarce.
Who would have thought that with all the raw material crises this year, it would hit the balls. The agricultural raw material has been rationed in British supermarkets for weeks, and in many shops the egg shelves remain empty. In many places, customers are only allowed to buy a maximum of two packs at a time so that there are enough eggs for everyone.
A lot of things come together that cause the state of emergency on the island. A wave of influenza has hit chicken stocks in agriculture. Around 750,000 laying hens have had to be killed since the beginning of October. It’s the second year in a row that bird flu has raged. Last year it even killed 1.8 million laying hens. Since the remaining laying hens can no longer lay eggs, there is a lack of supply.
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There are also other problems: animal feed, especially high-quality organic feed, is rare and expensive. It is mostly produced as a by-product in the production of vegetable oils. These, in turn, mostly come from the Ukraine, where production came to a standstill this year due to the war. The British Chicken Breeders’ Association BFREPA puts the additional costs for feed alone at 50 percent. Added to this are the sharp rises in energy costs. After all, laying hens also need warm accommodation and the eggs also have to be transported to the customers. The British government has also ordered that free-range hens must now be kept indoors. This is to protect them from being infected with bird flu by migratory birds.
Great Britain is not alone with its problems. German egg producers are also burdened by high prices for animal feed and energy. The Bundesverband Ei (BVEi) recently warned of bottlenecks on the German market. So far, bird flu has only been rampant in wild birds in this country, laying hens have not been affected to any great extent. But Germany has two other problems: Firstly, the maintenance costs have risen significantly, since animal welfare reasons have had to raise male chicks since the beginning of the year, which were previously killed.
In addition, the number of hens in Germany has fallen. Bird flu killed tens of thousands of hens last year. This resulted in fewer eggs and therefore fewer pullets, which could replace laying hens that were too old in addition to those suffering from flu. Only 29 million chicks hatched last year. That was 25 percent less than usual. In addition, some companies have stopped or reduced their husbandry because less money can be earned with eggs this year.
The result is sharply increased prices: with a plus of 20 percent since last year, eggs are one of the products whose price has risen significantly more than the general inflation rate. This has further implications, because after all, eggs are not only sold directly, but also processed into many other products. Pasta, bread, rolls and other baked goods are also experiencing price increases of 15 to 20 percent.
In Great Britain, manufacturers are now trying to fight the shortage with imports from Europe. For example, you buy eggs in Italy. That’s not an option for German producers. They are not allowed to buy eggs in countries and deliver them to German supermarkets where the killing of male chicks is still legal – which applies to almost all countries apart from Germany that could be considered. Accordingly, the BVEi has been calling for an EU-wide ban on killing since last year.
Empty supermarket shelves are not a threat to us anytime soon. The supply is secured at least until the end of the year. After that, it also depends on which prices supermarkets and producers can agree on. Likewise, falling energy prices would immediately ease the situation. But that is not to be expected any time soon. Eggs will therefore become scarcer – and remain expensive.
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