What's the Deal with EGGS?!
The overarching question of 2022 - “what’s going on with eggs?”.
It’s a tale of harrowing grain markets, drought, Ukraine, and apparently, Putin. But in a word - Feed. With feed quality effects on egg production now demanding national attention, I’m confident we can pin the blame squarely on feed. Feed price, but also feed quality.
No, it’s probably not a global conspiracy. The grains used in chicken feed bought today were likely harvested a year ago. Maybe more. There was severe drought and high heat in the Southeast over the last 2 years. That kind of stress hinders crop performance greatly. A bushel of peanuts (our main feed ingredient) has well established nutrition values used by the feed mills. Chief among them is protein.
For a chick to develop into a healthy, mature hen, she needs very specific nutrition through her first 22 weeks after hatch. Something like 19% protein content up and until she begins to lay large eggs. We’ve seen some other farms test their feed, showing actual protein content closer to 10%!
That’s enough to cripple a chicken’s development and have permanent effects on her egg production. We have not tested ours, because they ate it all, but we’d bet at least a dollar that our feed wasn’t up to snuff while our chicks were developing. To be clear - this is speculation.
As goes feed prices, so goes egg prices. Or at least that’s how we should’ve done it. We held out hope that we could stomach a few high feed purchases in hopes that prices would settle back down to “normal”. However, between price spikes and our poor flock performance, we’ve landed ourselves in a tight spot. Below, we’ve tried to give an overview of the last 13 months and where we now know we should have made incremental changes and communicated with you better.
We buy 4 tons of feed for a nostalgic $725/ton. Oh, to feel that sun upon our face again.
Feed is now $840/ton, but because of the ol’ “Putin Price Hike” on fuel, it comes to $980/ton. We stomach this price increase with no changes to our pricing, because we love you.
Our new flock of a new breed to our farm, black Australorps, have begun to lay lots of tiny eggs - just how it should be. But by July, the size is still averaging small, where we should be seeing large. Production never hits more than 50% of expected output.
Eggs finally creep up into medium and large, but total egg production is in the less than 10 dozen/week. A normal amount in August (read: HOT) should be 20-30 dozen. This is bad, but we hope things will bounce back when the heat breaks. SPOILER - It does not.
Our last bulk purchase of feed for 2022. We pay an eye-watering $1,250/ton. In hindsight, this was the time to roll out a price increase. We tried to stomach that spike in feed cost, again because we love you. We hope that prices will come back down. They do not. In fact, projections are that they will only keep going up through 2023.
Cool weather comes. Eggs do not. We wallow in desolation and ruin. We surrender to the fact that this flock, for reasons yet unknown, is a dud. We should order new chicks now. We don’t. We have enough feed to last until the end of the year. Some eggs are better than no eggs, so we press on.
That brings us to present day. October feed is gone. We pay a knee-buckling $1,360/ton. For the week of January 27 - February 3, the flock eats $330 worth of feed. They produce 10 dozen salable eggs. I was as surprised as you by the spelling of “salable”. In case there’s any industrial engineers reading this, that’s $33/dozen just to pay the feed bill. Any takers? On top of this, all of our usual hatcheries have no chicks available until mid summer 2023. Which means we don’t have a chance to rebound our production until the end of 2023.
Where We Go From Here
Over a 13 month period, our feed costs rose by 88%, and our flock’s egg production hovers around 25%. Since we aren’t trying to get hauled in front of Congress to explain $50/dozen eggs, the only practical solution here is to turn this flock into stewing hens, buy new chicks, and try again in 6 months.
That’s exactly what we would do…IF we weren’t in the middle of a national egg shortage and record breaking egg prices. If you’re forced to buy CAFO eggs for obscene prices, we thought this would be the wrong time to remove your choice to buy a local, truly pasture raised egg that’s corn and soy free.
So, in the interim, effective February 5th, 2023, the price of our eggs will be $8/dozen.
If you haven’t thrown your phone in disgust, we hope you will understand that this is not a opportunistic money grab, but rather a long overdue reaction to a perfect storm of factors that we mostly ignored. We haven’t ruled out culling our current flock and putting a pause on eggs for 2023, but with your help, we will try to ride this out a little longer.
Whatever eggs we can produce each week will be available at Cordell's.
We appreciate each and every one of you for helping us grow this crazy little idea into the budding farm it is today. We’re excited about the future of B&C Farm, whatever path it takes us to get there.
Brittany & Chris