Jeff Cutler

Ohio egg industry update

By Matt Reese

The egg industry in general is divided into multiple segments: graded shell eggs for retail in grocery stores; food service graded (different packaging); farm pack (nest run) eggs that are not graded and go to processers; liquid whole egg, yolks or egg whites for food processors; and liquid egg products for the food service industry. Each industry segment in Ohio faced unique challenges in the last 18 months.

Jeff Cutler with Cooper Farms talked about the challenges across the diverse markets for Ohio’s egg producers as the industry navigated the challenges of the pandemic. 

“Recently we have seen some improvement in demand both in food service as well as food manufacturing on the ingredient side, so we’re glad for that. We are coming out of a normal summer cycle where retail demand for shell eggs is not usually the strongest period anyway, but we have seen some steady demand for retail too,” Cutler said. “We usually see in the industry in August a little bump up as far as demand is concerned. It has been more significant than in the past because of getting back to school face-to-face this year.”

Travel is also important for the egg industry, as travelers tend to eat more eggs on vacation. 

“The cruise ships have not come back, theme parks and resorts have been spotty, but this summer there was more travel in general. People were wanting to get out,” Cutler said. “In that side of general food service we did see increased demand, primarily on liquid egg products in the last six weeks.”

Another major challenge in 2020 was the supply chain for packaging materials and other products needed by the egg industry. The situation has improved in 2021.

“The supply is back. We are not nearly as thin from order to delivery as we have been in the past,” Cutler said. “But like everything else that is either wood or petroleum driven on packaging, we have seen price increases pretty steadily for the past 12 months. We have been hit with price increases quarterly almost.”

With continuing market uncertainty due to COVID-19, the poultry industry is also facing uncertainty due to changing state-by-state ballot initiatives regarding hen housing. 

“The timing of what we just went through with COVID is going to be interesting, along with some of the cage-free ballot initiatives, including California going 100% cage free and all of the states following that in the next couple of years,” Cutler said. “It will be interesting to see what shapes up coming out of COVID. It is really unknown. We’re all waiting to see at the end of the year what will shape up.” 

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