Why are poultry items so expensive, and in short supply? In a nutshell, significant disruption of secondary essential animal feed inputs from Asia and Europe (vitamins, micronutrients, amino acids) – Crude protein cost increase – Fat tail of avian flu from last year (breeding stock and layers both hit hard) – Inflation – Transportation.
Inflation and supply chain issues explain some of why egg prices have risen. Eggs saw the largest percentage increase of any specific food, according to the consumer price index.
The ongoing bird flu outbreak in the US is now the longest and deadliest on record. More than 57 million birds have been killed by the virus or culled since a year ago, and the deadly disruption has helped propel skyrocketing egg prices and a spike in egg smuggling.
This inflationary picture has been exacerbated by the fresh price shock caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. Input costs – of which feed is the biggest component have already risen by almost 50% in a year.
The ingredients that go into chicken feed include, soya, sunflower meal (a byproduct of sunflower oil), and wheat, all of which have risen in price. In normal times, Ukraine and Russia are major sunflower oil and wheat producers.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) originated in US Federal law in 2005, and over the past 18 years has caused dramatic ripple effects in both the energy and food production sectors. The volume of corn that has to be converted into Ethanol biofuel to meet RFS goals has gradually increased and strained the food commodity markets. What does this have to do with eggs?
When the RFS began, standard ethanol was made by converting the starch from corn into ethanol. What was left over was called “Distiller’s Grains” and was sold on the US Commodities Markets as a feed product. Millions of tons of wet distiller’s grains went to beef and pork feed lots, and even more millions were dried and sold as a key ingredient in animal feed for virtually all species. If you go to your local feed store and look at any bag of animal feed, the ingredient list will likely start with “Processed Grain By-Products”. This is waste from ethanol production.
Notes: Standard Ethanol strips the starch out of corn. Cellulosic Ethanol is made with an enzyme process that strips the remaining carbohydrate from corn. Bio-Diesel is made by stripping the fat out of corn.
The resulting “Processed Grain By-Products” are lower in volume and the nutritional remnants available to livestock are drastically diminished. Essentially, chickens are now Malnourished.
The biggest nutritional deficiency in feed is crude fat. Dried Distiller’s grains from 3 years ago could be counted on to test at 30% protein and 10% fat. These newer “high protein” coproducts with the fat and cellulose stripped out of them, and potentially substituted with lower cost, lower quality ingredients are simply not getting the job done on the farm.