Commercial and backyard farms in 16 U.S. states and now in parts of Canada are experiencing the worst egg shortage in history, according to the Huffington Post.
A violent avian influenza continues to rapidly infect millions of hens, affecting egg prices and usage for households, restaurants, companies and universities.
The University of Connecticut is no exception.
Since May, the avian flu has killed over 47 million egg-laying hens, and farmers are desperately trying to repopulate their flocks – only praying that the outbreak doesn’t affect newborn hens, according to USNews.com.
While UConn still serves a decent quantity of eggs in the dining halls, it’s noticeable that there are fewer options than usual. One such change is that the national shortage also covers egg whites, which are offered in the dining halls only when they are available, dining services culinary manager Robert Landolphi said.
“We’re changing it up with the eggs. Sometimes you’ll see an omelet bar, or we’ll do hard boiled,” Landolphi said. “And obviously if you come up and ask for scrambled eggs, we can do that for you.”
The shortage has affected all of UConn’s dining units, especially with regard to pasteurized eggs: a process performed on eggs to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. These eggs come from the distributor in boxes and bags and have a longer shelf date than shelled eggs, Landolphi said.
The first thing dining services noticed was an increase of baked goods eaten in the dining facilities, probably due to the fact that scrambled eggs are not readily available and students would grab a baked good for a quick breakfast. While these baked goods require pasteurized eggs as a main ingredient, there haven’t been problems with obtaining enough eggs thus far.
“We’re still getting these pasteurized eggs, but just not in the quantity that we usually get them in,” Landolphi said.
The decrease in the availability of pasteurized eggs has made dining services source locally in a bigger way than usual, now sourcing about 50,000 local eggs per week through the Farmer’s Cow, a partnership of six family farms in Connecticut that sell their products. What makes buying local difficult is that these shelled eggs need to be cracked and used on the spot to avoid spoiling, Landolphi said.
“If one day we’re making say, 2,000 omelets with two eggs per omelet, that’s 4,000 eggs we need to crack by hand,” Landolphi said. “We’re cracking more eggs now than ever before.”
There is an estimated 12 to 18 months before the outbreak turns around. Dining services has been sourcing local eggs in this quantity since the summer, and so far it looks like the Farmer’s Cow will continue to accommodate this large quantity until the outbreak settles. The usual amount of pasteurized eggs are expected to return slowly as the epidemic dies down, Landolphi said.
While UConn hasn’t taken any extreme deficits, the state of Connecticut is suffering outrageous prices for eggs. Distributors say grocery store eggs won’t be back under $2 for at least a year, leveling the playing field for local farm fresh eggs that have always had higher prices, according to Fox CT.