We’d like to welcome our Executive Chef, Nicholas Littell as a guest blogger. His post discusses the increase in the price of eggs that we are currently experiencing (August, 2015). We hope that this insider look into the food supply will add more transparency to our collective food realities, and inspire us to question price increases in our food system.
The price of eggs have tripled. I reread the statement, yes it still really says that. I checked an old invoice, maybe my brain isn’t working right and I’m not remembering the price…nope still triple.
In my business it isn’t unusual for the company you buy food from to “accidentally” increase the price on an item from time to time. Usually it’s a small change and sometimes it’s a moderate change, but triple? I suspect they know that I buy hundreds of items a week and it wouldn’t be difficult for something to be missed. Prices constantly fluctuate for a myriad of reasons, weather, season, packaging changes, and, I was soon to find out, something even more disheartening.
Before I call a company about an error I like to arm myself with as much information as possible in order to stop any argument before it begins. Most of the prices on the common things we eat are set by market prices, this is the base price and then the company you actually buy from generally adds a small percentage in order to make their business work. The normal addition is 5% to as much as 20%.
It is my job as the chef to make sure that, that addition is as small as possible. The best way to see how much you are being charged for their service is to check the market price, which is easily accessed through the USDA website, thank you internet! So I opened my browser and headed over to USDA.gov, and wouldn’t you know it the price of eggs really has gone up.
The next thing I did, sent me down the rabbit hole. I googled “why are eggs so expensive?” It turns out the United States has been hit with an avian flu epidemic. What started slowly in British Columbia has spread through migratory ducks to Washington State and Oregon then exploded when it hit Minnesota with over 50% of all turkeys in the United States. This quickly spread to Iowa which is the largest state in regard to chicken and egg production, they hold over 20% of the egg laying hens. This unfortunately has resulted in the “culling” of more than 26 million chickens in the past couple months with more to come.
I have been involved in the food supply chain in some facet for over twenty years, and I have never seen the things I am starting to see with more regularity over the past decade. Starting with the global rice crisis in 2008, to the food shortages in the Middle East that spurred the Arab Spring, and to something as simple as the price of eggs.
Our food system is in a precarious position. We are running out of water in our largest agricultural state and our soil is the poorest in quality it has ever been. There are a multitude of other examples of issues and causes that would be beyond the scope of this blog post, but I think you see what I am getting at.
I don’t think there is a silver bullet for this, I do think that it will take a massive shift in how people think about the way we eat and the effect our daily actions have in the way we as people live in nature and not as an outsider to it.
How will this food supply reality impact school lunch? We are in the process of reconsidering the amount of eggs that we use until the situation improves. We believe that even without eggs present on our cold or hot bar menu, that there will still be plenty of good protein available for our customers to enjoy each and everyday.
Photos courtesy of Woodley Wonder Works & David Goehring