MIAMI COUNTY — As the avian flu outbreak spreads across the Midwest, some egg-dependent companies are being prompted to contemplate drastic steps: importing eggs from overseas or looking to egg alternatives.
Companies sticking with egg suppliers closer to home face sharply higher prices because of the outbreak, which has affected about 39 million birds.
Nearly one-quarter of the hens that lay “breaker eggs” — which include liquid, dried or frozen eggs used by food manufacturers — have either died or are slated to be euthanized.
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.
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 currently.
“The price of eggs has increased quite a bit. We get some from a local farmer and those prices have gone up significantly because his demand is a lot higher,” said Cindy Dobo, owner of the Dobo’s Delights, a Piqua bakery specializing in cakes.
“Egg whites have about tripled in price just this week, and sales reps have been warning people that anything that has eggs in it — mixes, things that might have dried egg products — will go up significantly as well.”
Connor Haren is the owner of the Troy Meat Shop, which sells egg-based products. He said the shop has six or seven different egg suppliers, and the shortage of eggs has contributed to increased prices.
“The price of our pies and angel food cake has gone up because of the increase in the egg white price,” he said.
However, the price increase has not affected his business and how many people are coming in to purchase egg-based products.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt too many people,” he said. “A lot of my customers are into the quality food and the things we sell are pretty darn good and I think people are willing to pay the price to buy them.”
North of the Troy Meat Shop, bakeries are also deliberating their plans should the egg shortage grow more severe.
Brittney Tyler, owners of Brittney’s Cakes in Troy, has been busy with graduation season and upcoming wedding and back-to-school season. She said the egg shortage has not caused them to lose any business, but it does pose some considerations for the bakery.
“We have noticed when we order supplies that ingredient cost has gone up, eggs especially have doubled in price. We have been working with suppliers and they have put a ration on how many items you can buy,” she said. “We can’t buy as many items as we normally would. So say if we wanted four cases of eggs, we could only order two cases of eggs.”
However, Tyler said the bakery is working hard to ensure that the rise of egg prices don’t affect customers.
“Right now we’ve just been eating the cost,” she said. “We’ve talked about it, seeing what we’re going to have to do depending on how long the shortage lasts. We want to keep our product as low in cost for our consumers as possible, but in the end we’ve got to stay afloat too.”
Dobo echoed Tyler’s sentiments, stating that the length of the shortage will determine whether or not it drives up the bakery’s prices. “We’ll try to keep the prices as sane as we can,” she said. “If it’s as they’re saying, that the shortage will go on for 12 months or more, we’ll have to increase our prices, but if it’s just going to be for a couple of months, we would stick it out and keep our prices the same.”
Kenny Adams, owner of Adams Greenhouse & Produce LLC in Covington, is grateful that the avian flu outbreak hasn’t affected his stock of free-range chickens or their output.
“We’ve got chickens out in the pasture right now — about 180 layers, as well as broilers. A lot of it depends on how you raised the bird. We feel that if you let them run loose, it doesn’t spread the flu like when you have them in a cage or barn,” he said.
“It’s not affecting our business any. Maybe it’s not widespread enough yet and we’re hoping it won’t be.”