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US specialty egg sales growth highlights new expansion opportunities for Australian businesses

July 14, 2021

US specialty egg sales growth highlights new expansion opportunities for Australian businesses

The US egg market is preparing for a seismic shift in consumer demands as savvy shoppers hunt for more environmentally-friendly produce.

The US egg market is preparing for a seismic shift in consumer demands as savvy shoppers hunt for more environmentally-friendly produce.

Producers across the US are transitioning away from cage eggs into more expensive ‘specialty’ eggs produced using sustainable and regenerative farming practices.

These eggs currently comprise roughly one-third of the US $6.1 billion American egg market, but estimates suggest that figure will grow to 70% in the next five years.

Growth in this once-niche market is being driven by consumers – especially younger shoppers – who are prioritizing the welfare of agricultural animals and the environment more broadly.

And they’re willing to pay a premium for products aligned with these values. 

Shoppers in the USA can currently purchase a dozen cage eggs for less than US $1 – but that hasn’t stopped consumers paying over eight times that for ‘pastured’ eggs – produced by hens living outside in open fields.

Many are being marketed as beneficial for the environment too, owing to the regenerative properties flocks of hens have on their environment through their scratching, digging, and fertilising farmland with their waste.

Treading on eggshelves

Australia’s specialty egg market is similarly entering a growth phase.

At present these eggs account for 1% of shelf space in the major supermarkets and 3% of supermarket egg sales value, but this figure continues to grow as consumer preferences change.

Several major supermarket chains have also made public commitments to phase out caged eggs in the coming years, with Coles promising to remove them from shelves as early as 2023.

Even eggs deemed ‘free range’ are attracting the ire of consumer groups, who note the current ACCC rules governing the term only require a density of 10,000 hens per hectare (1 square metre per hen) and regular access to an outdoor range.

To put this into perspective, the CSIRO’s Model Code of Practice argues there should be a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare on an open range – less than a sixth of the ACCC definition.

Consumer group CHOICE cautioned many consumers would likely expect the ‘free range’ eggs they buy at supermarkets to come from conditions more in line with the CSIRO’s code than the actual ACCC guidelines.

A report by the consumer group also found a majority of consumers (67%) believe the maximum stocking density for free range eggs should be less than 1,500 hens per hectare. 

Producers warn of egg shortage

As consumers and supermarkets shift away from cage eggs, some producers warn of a potential nationwide egg shortage.

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