Two egg giants, Cal-Maine Foods and Rose Acre Farms, have announced they’re teaming up to build a massive shell-egg facility in Red River County, Texas. The facility will house more than two million egg-laying hens. The companies are expanding to meet the growing demand for cage-free eggs, which can fetch a serious premium – sometimes doubling their price at the register.
At the local grocery store, there’s a definite choreography in front of the egg cooler. Customers pace back and between the four refrigerators and browse the selection.
Sangay Sabu is deliberating which type to put in his basket.
“Large eggs, grade A, grade double A, extra large eggs, large organic, extra large organic, pasteurized, extra large grade A, locally produced,” Sabu reads. “And there’s like a whole other aisle of eggs…that’s a lot of eggs.”
Once he picks, he’ll do the same thing everybody else does, without fail.
“I always open them up to make sure they’re not cracked,” shopper Mary Jane Secret says.
But when you’re looking at 15 or more different types of eggs, how do you pick what to put in your cart?
“Because they’re extra large, so I wanted extra large,” Secret says. But everybody has their own preference.
“They’re the cheapest,” says Crystal Mitchell.
“I usually get the organic, cage-free, mainly because I’m a vegetarian so that’s important to me,” Jaime Phelps says.
“I usually buy something that’s cage free vegetarian fed and I like that the label said it’s enhanced with vitamins and other goodies,” says Mark Burns.
“I usually buy the store brand because it’s cheaper and I feel like all eggs are the same,” says Andrew Litwin.
Shoppers all have different tastes, and there’s a type of egg for each of them. Craig Coufal teaches poultry science at Texas A&M.
“Demand for specialty eggs continues to increase every year and now it’s representing probably a good one-fifth of the market for eggs in the United States,” Coufal says.
As long as the market keeps growing, egg suppliers like Cal-Maine Foods will continue supplying specialty eggs. Tim Dawson is a spokesperson for Cal-Maine.
“It’s certainly our job to meet the demand that the consumer has,” Dawson says. “It used to be not to long ago that there wasn’t a very large selection of eggs, but if you go into the egg case today you’ll find a very large selection of eggs.”
Coufal says now is a good time for specialty egg producers.
“Right now egg markets are very good – egg prices are very high, feed costs are reasonable – so egg producers are doing well,” he says.
“There’s more of a recognition that the cholesterol and the diet is not necessarily the issue that creates problems for cholesterol in the blood,” Dawson says.
The federal government will release new dietary guidelines this fall. If the preliminary meetings are an indicator, the nation’s dietitians will recommend people eat one egg per day.