Aussies shouldn’t worry about egg shortages, industry group says

Australians shouldn't worry about accessing eggs at the supermarket, according to one industry group.

Australians shouldn't worry about accessing eggs at the supermarket, according to one industry group. Photo: Getty

Despite farming costs, poor weather and increased demand contributing to egg shortages on supermarket shelves and a rise in prices, an industry group is telling Australians not to worry about accessing the cheap source of protein.

Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies said there was “clearly a gap between egg supply and demand at present, but this seems to be mainly demand driven”.

“Australia’s population is growing, and combined with inflationary pressures biting across the economy, people are looking to more affordable proteins to get food on the table,” he said.

“This is contributing to stronger demand for eggs than anticipated and the industry will have to play catch up to fill the gap.”

According to Australian Eggs, a member-owned non-profit that provides marketing and research and development for Australian egg farmers, supply hasn’t faltered, with an average of 18.5 million eggs produced each day and 6.5 billion a year.

“There might be a bit of competition for eggs, but we are a long way from the COVID scenario,” Mr McMonnies said.

“Even patchy shelves have eggs on them, and consumers that need eggs will be able to get them.”

The rising cost of production

Supermarkets point to increased costs in production and poor weather as a reason for recent egg shortages, despite an increase in supply in recent months after a difficult 18 months for the industry.

A Coles spokesperson said the supermarket was continuing to monitor supply and was working hard with suppliers to improve availability for customers.

“We know that the Australian egg market is under pressure due to cooler weather, high feed and input costs, along with significant outbreaks of avian influenza in Europe and North America resulting in a decrease in global supply.”

A Woolworths spokesperson said across the market in both retail and hospitality, egg supply had been reduced in the past 18 months due to factors such as weather and producers’ costs.

“We’ve seen egg supply continue to increase in recent months. However, customer demand has also grown alongside it,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re working closely with our egg suppliers to help them boost production.”

Change in standards

A national update on the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry, which governs how egg-laying hens are treated in free range, cage and barn-laid egg farms, is expected at a meeting of federal and state agriculture ministers in Perth on July 13.

Egg Farmers of Australia chair Bede Burke, who owns an egg farm in Tamworth, said in a statement that because caged eggs made up 50 per cent of Australia’s total egg production, any early phase-out could cause future shortages.

“It’s critical that all state agriculture ministers around Australia thoroughly review the draft S&G document,” he said.

“They must realise that they will damage the lives of cage-egg farming families if they don’t push the phase-out of conventional cages further back to 2046.”

Cage eggs are the highest-sold type of eggs in supermarkets, accounting for about 33 per cent of total sales.

In August 2022, an independent panel finalised the proposed standards and guidelines.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Murray Watt said at the time that the standards balanced contemporary animal welfare science with feedback from an extensive engagement process.

“It also proposes the phase-out of conventional chicken cages, commonly known as battery cages, over the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.

“This will provide certainty for industry, allow producers to plan for the future, and assure the public that Australia’s poultry standards balance contemporary science and community expectations.”

Other changes within the proposed standards include a requirement to provide environmental enrichment for meat chicken breeders, changes to minimum light intensity and required periods of darkness, ventilation and temperature parameters.

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