John Gelley, sales director for EU bakery at Arla, told FoodManufacture.co.uk the firm expects to see a big shortage of eggs in the near future. The shortage would rise as growing numbers of continental egg producers quit production in response to tighter EU welfare rules and avian flu in Mexico forced the country to soak up world supplies.
Thousands of continental producers were likely to end production as the EU’s Welfare of Laying Hens Directive, which came into force on January 1, began to be enforced around Europe. The legislation banned producers from using battery cages and required them to provide larger cages, perches and litter to enable hens to nest, peck and scratch.
Gelley said that many farmers on the continent “can’t afford to make the changes” and would be driven out of business.
Bird flu epidemic
Also, an egg crisis in Mexico was threatening to mop up world egg supplies, he said. “Mexico − the world’s biggest consumer of eggs − has just faced another bird flu epidemic. That has resulted in the slaughter of millions of chickens, which had prompted the government to relax its importation rules from the US and Asia and lead to shortages and higher prices over the world."
Arla said the combined effect would be soaring egg prices and potentially ruinous cost increases for egg users. “If the price continues to rise − which we predict it will due to those farms that cannot afford to comply and due to shortages in Mexico − manufacturers [who rely on eggs] will go out of business unless they find an alternative,” said Gelley.
The company claimed cake and pastry manufacturers could save millions of pounds a year if they substituted half of the eggs they used for Arla’s egg replacements product.
The estimation is based the company’s Nutrilac calculator, which takes into account the price of eggs and annual usage.
Nutrilac egg replacements are manufactured from whey proteins, are considerably cheaper than eggs, lower in fat, calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and have a longer shelf-life of 18 months, he claimed.
But the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) rejected Arla’s claims.
“The egg industry does not recognise there to be a shortage of eggs and manufacturers can continue to make egg-based products without any requirements for egg replacers,” said a BEIC spokesman.
While there had been a temporary shortage in Europe last Easter − when supply was tight due to a transition period from conventional battery cages to the new enriched cages – supply problems had now eased, he said.
Meanwhile, Britain’s biggest egg producer Noble Foods reported last week a 22% fall in pre-tax profits in the year to the end of September 2011.
Pre-tax profits fell to £18.7M while turnover rose to £555.5M.