Eggs Profile

Revised December, 2018.

Background

The egg industry is one that has changed over the years from many smaller producers to one that is highly centralized and more specialized. In the early years of American agriculture, many farmers had chickens and collected eggs for their own use or for sale to friends, neighbors and the local grocer. Today, fewer farmers raise layers, and those farmers often specialize in egg production, maintaining large flocks of layers.

 

Prior to World War II, most egg production came from farm flocks of less than 400 hens. By the early 1960s, improved technology and the development of sophisticated mechanical equipment were responsible for a shift from small farm flocks to larger commercial operations. In the major egg-producing states, flocks of 100,000 laying hens are common, and some flocks number more than 1 million. Each of the 375.8 million laying birds in the United States in 2017 produced an average of 281 eggs a year (NASS 2018).

Demand

Demand is driven by consumer consumption. Per capita, or per person, consumption is a measure of total egg production divided by the total population.

The high point for per capita egg consumption was 402 eggs in 1945. Per capita consumption had been steadily declining due to lifestyle changes and to health concerns. Per capita consumption reached its lowest point in 1995 at 232 eggs per person.

Of the estimated 255 million cases of shell eggs produced in 2017:

  • 151 million cases (59%) went to retail.
  • 76.8 million cases (30%) were further processed (for foodservice, manufacturing, retail and export).
  • 20.5 million cases (8.0%) went for foodservice use.
  • 7.53 million cases (2.9%) were exported. (American Egg Board)

The growth in egg consumption over the past decade occurred primarily in egg products, rather than in shell eggs.

Drivers of Demand

Eggs have become attractive as a source of protein and as a versatile food source. While cholesterol intake has been a factor in the minds of health conscious consumers, the health benefits of eggs have been promoted by the industry. Research into functional or designer eggs has provided new demand for the omega 3 egg and for eggs with specific nutritional attributes. Attributes in demand for egg products are cage-free eggs, lower cholesterol eggs, omega 3 eggs and eggs higher in vitamin E. Popularity of the various protein diets, where carbohydrates are limited and protein sources are allowed, have also been contributors to egg demand.

Trade associations and industry groups have successfully campaigned to improve the image of the egg, nutritionally and economically. Nutritional studies and research has helped to combat the high-cholesterol image that struck a blow for the industry.

Production

Most eggs produced in the United States are table eggs for human consumption. In 2017, the number of eggs sold as table eggs totaled 92.1 billion eggs (NASS 2018). The remainder of production is for the hatching market. These eggs are hatched to provide replacement birds for the egg-laying flocks and to produce broiler chicks for grow-out operations.

Egg production totaled 105.7 billion eggs in 2017, up 3 percent from 2016. The top five egg-producing states are Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. These five states produce about 45 percent of all U.S. eggs. According to the National Ag Statistics Service, the number of eggs produced by these states in 2016 (in millions) was as follows:

States

Eggs (in millions)

Iowa

15,953

Indiana

9,581

Ohio

8,903

Pennsylvania

8,212

Texas

5,760

Eggs are sold as commodities. The USDA provides marketing statistics for various segments of the egg market. One measure is the historical tracking of the number of eggs cracked or broken. That information is then broken down by whole, whites or yolks. Eggs are also measured by frozen and dried forms, as well as by shell.

Industry Consolidation

Egg production has changed to a more vertically integrated system over the last 45 years. The egg industry has exhibited the most dramatic change toward a more vertically integrated system, proportionately more than broiler and turkey production.

According to the American Egg Board (2017), there are presently 63 egg-producing companies with 1 million plus layers and 15 companies with greater than 5 million layers. There are approximately 201 egg-producing companies with flocks of 75,000 hens or more. These companies represent about 99 percent of all layers in the United States. In 1994, there were around 350 companies with flocks exceeding 75,000 hens.

Exports

Egg exports consist of eggs for consumption, eggs for hatching and egg products for prepared and baked foods. During 2017 exports of U.S. eggs and egg products were valued at more than $566.5 million. The top markets were (in order): Mexico, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong. Mexico purchased eggs and egg products valued at $169.4 million in 2017. (FAS)

Imports

Canada is the top supplier of eggs and egg products imported into the United States, followed by Netherlands and Spain. The total value of all egg imports was $74.9 million in 2017. (FAS)

Regulations

The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for administering a mandatory inspection program for egg products under the authority of the Egg Products Inspection Act of 1970. The Act and its associated regulations require that all commercial egg-breaking and egg-processing plants operate under continuous USDA supervision.

Poultry litter and the associated disposal is also regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Groundwater protection issues are important considerations, as are odor and nuisance of poultry production facilities. State and local agencies are also involved with the enforcement of these regulations.

Trends

Because of increased attention on consumer health, on environmental concerns and in issues from the animal welfare groups, designer and specialty eggs are niches in the egg market worth examining. Organic eggs, range eggs, cage-free eggs and omega 3 eggs are some examples of niches that are of interest and have experienced growth in the marketplace.

Sources

American Egg Board

Chickens and Eggs Annual Summary, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.

Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Global Ag Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service, USDA.

Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, ERS, USDA.

Poultry Production and Value, NASS, USDA.