Bakers expect the Easter egg price increase. Same goes for the Thanksgiving and Christmas increase. But what about the summer bump? Bakers did not expect that.
From March 2007 to press time, the price of shelled eggs, which drive egg prices in the United States, rose from $1.06 a dozen to $1.25 a dozen, a price increase unprecedented during summer months, and one that has trickled down to liquid, dried and frozen eggs.
“2007 has been unlike any other year in history,” says Malcolm Roddis, Canadian sales/marketing manager, Michael Foods, Minnetonka, Minn. “Usually the egg market tends to soften up in the summer months, but this year there was a run-up in the market at the back end of the second quarter, and it hasn’t weakened at all.”
Skyrocketing egg prices have significantly impacted the bottom line of many high-volume bakers. Combined with rising fuel prices and packaging costs, these seemingly small increases loom large over profitability goals.
Many factors have contributed to these price increases. First and foremost is a decrease in hens. According to Roddis, the market has about 5 percent fewer birds than a year ago. This combined with strong retail demand has left fewer eggs available to high-volume bakers, resulting in higher prices.
Rising demand for shelled eggs from international markets, such as Dubai and Japan, also has cut into supply. On the domestic front, government mandates for increased ethanol use has diminished the corn supply, a major hen feed.
“Corn represents 60 percent of their diet, and higher corn prices drive up the input cost to produce an egg,” Roddis says. “The protein market also has strengthened, and you couple the grain base with the protein base to make chicken feed, and it is all driving up egg prices.”
Increases in packaging and energy costs also contributed to the sharp rise in egg prices. And, relief is not in sight in the near future, Roddis says. “Prices will possibly hold through the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008.” And, an early Easter in 2008 could potentially see Northeast large eggs reach an all-time high, topping the record of $1.42.
Egg product form
Despite the potential for record-breaking prices, eggs are an essential ingredient in many bakery formulas, forcing bakers to deal with volatile prices instead of seeking alternatives.
No matter their price, eggs provide bakers form, function and nutrition. These three characteristics define the benefits of eggs, from ease-of-use to browning to nutraceutical attributes.
High-volume bakers formulate bakery foods with three different types of egg products: refrigerated liquid, frozen and dried. The versatility of these three options allows bakers to create the ideal product regardless of formulation, storage and handling issues.
Refrigerated egg products come in many varieties, including whole eggs, white or yolks; sugared egg yolks, salted whole eggs or yolks; and even extended shelf life whole eggs, whites or yolks. Egg processors add ingredients, such as salt and sugar, to egg products to improve their functional and physical characteristics. Bakers can purchase their refrigerated liquid egg products in bulk tank trucks, totes, metal or plastic containers, polyethylene-coated fiber or laminated-foil and paper cartons, and hermetically-sealed polyethylene bags.
High-volume bakers use frozen egg products when an extended, stable, shelf life is needed. These products come in many varieties, including whole eggs, whites or yolks; salted whole eggs or yolks; sugared egg yolks; whole eggs with yolks and corn syrup; whole eggs with citric acid; and whole eggs with corn syrup. These products can be delivered in containers, plastic pails, pouches or waxed cartons.
Dried egg products also benefit bakers because of their stability and long shelf life. They come in many varieties, including whole eggs or yolk solids, egg whites, free flowing whole eggs or yolk solids, stabilized whole eggs or yolk solids, and blends of whole eggs and yolk with carbohydrates.
Choosing the ideal egg product depends on many factors. Functional attributes of dried and liquid products are similar, and the decision usually results from the application, and handling and storage concerns.
Egg product function
Egg products possess a multitude of benefits, including nutrition and ease-of-use. However, function trumps these benefits and is the main reason eggs are mainstays of the baking industry. Egg products are found in a variety of bakery foods, including breads, cakes, cookies, sweetgoods, muffins and pastries, and perform an array of functions, such as thickening and coagulating, emulsifying fats and liquids, foaming, controlling crystallization, browning and coloring.
Cake manufacturers rely extensively on eggs to enhance product structure, color and flavor. Eggs assist in formulating lighter cakes through aeration. The beating of eggs incorporates air into a formula and creates a light, air-filled structure desired by cake manufacturers. Aeration causes a unique cellular structure from egg products’ leavening action and adds volume and height to cake products.
The phospholipids, lipoproteins and proteins in egg yolk products provide stability for oil in water emulsions, providing a creamier texture and smoother mouthfeel in a variety of products. The American Egg Board (AEB), Park Ridge, Ill., says dried whole egg and yolk and refrigerated/frozen liquid eggs have essentially no differences in terms of emulsification properties. Besides functional benefits, eggs also positively impact bakery food appearance. Xanthophylls pigments in egg yolks add a yellow color to many bakery foods, including cakes. In breads and rolls, bakers use egg washes to brown crusts.
Egg product nutrition
The healthfulness of egg products has been debated endlessly since the first alarm bells about cholesterol sounded, were silenced and then rang again. Remove the cholesterol equation from the debate, though, and it is easy to point out several positive health attributes in egg products.
Egg products consist of a variety of macronutrients (calories, cholesterol and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins A, D, E, B12 and B6; thiamin; folate; riboflavin; iron; selenium; zinc; choline; lutein and zeaxanthin). Together, these vitamins and minerals deliver a healthful ingredient with a clean label.
Most consumers equate eggs with protein, and for good reason. According to AEB, egg protein is the benchmark to which all other proteins are compared for determining value to human nutrition. This value is measured on a scale where a top score of 100 equals complete biological value of a protein to human nutrition. Whole egg proteins rate 93.7, which is higher than fish (76.0), beef (74.3) and soybeans (72.8).
Although proteins represent the most significant health value of egg products, these ingredients also deliver bountiful health benefits in the form of minerals and vitamins. Eggs also contain choline and lutein, two nutrients gaining traction in the nutraceutical market.
Choline is a B vitamin essential for the synthesis and release of acetyl-choline, a neurotransmitter involved in memory storage. Choline is found in egg yolks and has gained popularity as a nutrient important in reducing memory loss associated with aging. Choline also plays a role in fetal brain development.
Lutein is a carotenoid found in egg yolks that is absorbed in eye tissues. The antioxidant protects eyes from ultraviolet light and studies report the nutrient helps prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Despite all of egg products’ functional and nutritional benefits, the ingredients still retain clean label status. That is what makes eggs an essential ingredient for high-volume bakers. They can derive multiple benefits from eggs without clouding their ingredient listings with hard to pronounce words.
Yes, egg prices are high. And yes, signs point to the prices going even higher. But the value of egg products and their contribution to the form and function of a product make them irreplaceable to many bakery formulas.