NASHVILLE, N.C. — If your grocery bill is higher lately, eggs are partly to blame.
Experts blame supply and demand -- 280 million hens laying 73 billion eggs a year barely keep up with American's revived taste for eggs. That news has more than just egg producers egg-cited.
Easter and eggs always go together. Even when the holiday is over, booming egg sales will continue thanks to popular low-carb, high-protein diets.
"All that's combined with a great improvement in demand," said Bob Spike, Braswell Milling general manager.
Spike's milling company in Nashville mixes special feed grains for hens on company farms. He remembers, not long ago, cholesterol-conscious diets scrambled the egg market.
"During those times, it was very tough to be in this industry. We were collapsing, so to speak," he said.
American Heart Association
says moderate egg consumption does not increase the risk of heart disease.
With eggs selling so well, there is a domino effect on the state's farm economy. There is a demand for organic grain grown by local farmers.
"More and more people are looking towards organic products," Spike said.
Many consumers are also looking for hens that are treated humanely, freed from cages, hormones and antibiotics. Those eggs cost more. Add to that the cost of complying with increased environmental and health regulations.
"It's making it difficult to build facilities," Spike said.
That is why egg prices are higher, but arguably, still a bargain. "A little over 10 cents per egg, you can have a complete meal," Spike said.
It takes a hen more than 24 hours to produce one egg. The hen population is plentiful, with one hen for every man, woman and child in the United States.