Australia is experiencing an egg shortage, with supermarkets across the country implementing purchase restrictions while poultry farms struggle to keep up with demand.
The current egg shortage is attributed to the shift toward free-range eggs, rising production costs, poor weather conditions, and the pandemic – as farmers reduced their flocks during the lockdown.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said that reduced production on several major farms had affected the supply of locally produced eggs in some regions.
As a result, “customers may notice reduced availability at the moment”, and the supermarket chain said it was working with suppliers to increase availability as soon as possible.
Coles had implemented a two-carton per customer limit on eggs since mid-July, but Woolworths currently has no restrictions.
Xavier Prime, owner of Chooks at the Rooke, a free-range egg farm in Cororooke, told 3AQ Radio that “there is a bit of egg shortage” at the moment.
“Part of it is the time of year,” said Prime. “Free range eggs, in that sort of space, the birds are open to the elements, and with the daylight hours being shorter, that has a lot to do with how many eggs the chickens lay.”
Prime explained that chickens need 15 to 16 hours of daylight per day for optimum laying. Battery farms can cope using artificial lighting, but free-range farms do not do this, thus the reduced output during winter.
While some blame free-range eggs for empty shelves, Rowan McMonnies, MD at Australian Eggs, told 7News that there are other contributing factors.
“Free-range production is more complex than other systems as there are more variables to manage, including seasonal weather conditions,” he said.
“Egg farmers are usually able to meet demand across the year through planning, but Covid disruption has made this difficult.”
According to McMonnies, egg demand dropped significantly when the lockdown ended last year, which signalled to farmers that people did not want as many eggs.
However, demand has bounced back faster than expected, and demand for eggs has increased over the past year.
Brain Ahmed, director of Egg Farmers of Australia, claims the industry produces enough eggs for consumers and expects normal supply levels in major supermarkets by September – if better weather conditions prevail.
“But you just don’t know with this weather,” stated Ahmed.