The U.S. egg industry is in trouble.
Not only do they have amazing companies like Hampton Creek Foods hot on their heels with a healthy, cheaper, safe, sustainable, and animal-friendly alternative to eggs, but new reports indicate that rising consumer interest in healthy eating and animal welfare is also beginning to shake the foundations of the U.S. egg business.
According to the Associated Foreign Press, the price of egg whites has nearly tripled to record levels since early 2013, following moves by McDonald’s and other fast-food giants to introduce egg-white menu items to appeal to cholesterol-focused customers. The problem is the demand for egg yolks, used in ice cream, mayonnaise, pasta, and some other goods, has not kept pace with egg whites, and the industry is struggling with the fact that it is not profitable to boost egg production only for the purpose of increasing egg-white supply.
Sounds like it’s time for better eggs, huh?
To make a bad week even worse for the industry, Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster of Quality Egg, LLC recently plead guilty to charges that they sold eggs responsible for a 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of people and led to an unprecedented recall of 550 million eggs.
According to court documents, Quality Egg sold products from 2006 to 2010 with labeling that “made the eggs appear to be not as old as they actually were,” and the company was also charged with bribing a public official, for an alleged 2010 payment meant to influence a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector to approve shell eggs that had been held back for failing to meet federal standards, reports CBS news.
This is not the kind of PR the industry really needs, but then again, they haven’t been doing themselves any favors. Instead of becoming more transparent, Iowa, the largest egg-producing state in the nation, became the first state to enact an ag-gag law, which criminalizes the recording of animal abuse on factory farms in the state. Since then, several other states like Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Kansas have passed similar laws.
It’s pretty clear that the industry is afraid that consumer sentiment on the health benefits of eggs and the welfare of egg laying hens is shifting. Unfortunately, keeping the cameras out of factory farms and shifting to organic or cage-free eggs, still doesn’t quite address the food safety concerns or for that matter, even the animal welfare concerns.
Moreover, consumers now have a whole world of delicious alternatives that can satisfy their tastebuds, without having to actually consume eggs.
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