Sheryl Eddie says the national egg shortage has taken a large toll on her business.
Eddie, co-owner of CindyBGoods, said the cost for a case of eggs from the bistro’s distributor used to be $24 to $27. With the shortage making its way to Gainesville, the price has risen to $80.
“The prices of everything went up,” Eddie said. “But this was a double whammy.”
One of the main reasons for the hike in egg prices is bird flu. According to the USDA, the disease has spread to 47 states, and about 58 million birds have been affected. The nearest outbreaks to Gainesville are in Lake County and Duval County.
Eddie said the chickens that can roam freely are less likely to get sick, but birds that are kept together in overcrowded spaces are more susceptible to the virus.
“When you keep that many birds, you’re going to wipe out flocks if one of them gets the bird flu,” Eddie said.
She said the biggest challenge for CindyBGoods is that it does not have the same options as an individual. A person can call their friends to ask if they have any eggs, but restaurants do not have that luxury at a time like this. The bistro has to get its food from a distributor, in adherence to regulations, even if the prices have gone up.
Eddie said the increase in egg prices means she has had to markup her menu. But even changing the prices for dishes has its fair share of problems. Every time there is a tweak to the menu, it costs time, effort and money.
Although most people are understanding of the current situation, she said there are still people who are not happy with the prices. The requests for price reductions is frustrating, she said, because she feels the cost and time that it takes to make foods that contain eggs justifies the price.
“We do get people calling in want(ing) a meal for $5,” Eddie said. “You can’t do that at home anymore.”
CindyBGoods is not the only establishment taking a hit.
Amanda Bowers, the owner of BakerBaker, said the bakery always used free-range eggs, but the company is having to use different eggs as substitutes because of the shortage.
Although the bake shop continues to sell and go through 720 eggs a week, Bowers said she dislikes how the substitute eggs are not up to par.
“Not only is it an increase of 10 cents per egg, but it’s 10 cents per egg for a low-quality egg, rather than 10 cents for a good, high-quality egg that I’m used to using,” Bowers said. “Which affects the flavor of everything and the quality of everything, which we care about a lot.”
For the next couple of months, she said the bakery needs be more hesitant about taking large orders because she doesn’t know if she will be able to get the product. The company is also staying away from egg-heavy items like sweet and tea breads. Bowers said that, to its benefit, the shop has a variety of egg-free pastries it can make.
Bowers said one way she’s looking to adapt to the shortage of eggs is by developing a vegan line of food for the bakery. The goal of the new menu is to create plant-based products that will not be greatly affected by current or future supply shortages.
Russ Welker, natural foods manager at Ward’s Supermarket, said there has been an increase in the wholesale price of eggs for the store because of the shortage. The wholesale value fluctuates, but in some cases, the supermarket is paying double the amount than what it was paying three months ago. The price the store was selling extra large eggs back then was $1.29, but today, the price is well over $3.
Although the shortage has affected the wholesale price for eggs for the store, he says Ward’s Supermarket has always been able to get eggs because it is an independent grocer.
Not relying on corporate chains means the store has access to warehouses across the East Coast. The different distributors bring weekly deliveries to Ward’s.
“We’ve never had empty shelves,” Welker said.
But Welker said that even though the wholesale price is up on eggs, Ward’s Supermarket strives to keep its prices low and lowers its margins so people can still buy eggs.
“Use fewer eggs if you have to,” Welker said. “But the price will go back down, and it won’t be too long.”
Although most of the reaction toward the egg shortage has been negative, a local farm is reaping the benefits.
Lauren Morales, co-owner of Humble Nature Farm, which sells pasture-raised non-GMO chicken and eggs, said the egg shortage has only affected her business in a positive way. The farm participates in several local farmers markets.
“We’re selling out a lot faster,” Morales said. “Within 30 minutes of being at both our markets, the eggs are gone.”
She said even though the demand for eggs has increased and there are more customers discovering the business, Humble Nature Farm has not intentionally increased its price of eggs because of the shortage. The farm’s eggs are naturally priced high because the feed is expensive, the chickens are pasture-raised and more labor is needed.
Morales said her flock has been able to withstand the bird flu because the chickens are kept outdoors and are moved around, so the group builds a stronger immune system.