This year has not been an easy one for egg producers. As farm costs increase and temperatures rise, egg producers are constantly looking for ways to keep their chickens safe and healthy, as well as reduce risk to their farm business.
In the beginning of the season, there was a dangerous strain of bird flu circulating across the country that put many farms at risk. This disease was spread by wild birds, so for pasture raised chickens who spend most of their days outside, this disease was very hard to contain. If any of the flock tested positive for bird flu, producers would be required to kill their entire flock.
Fortunately, our egg producers did not experience any bird flu on their farms and the risk has lessened in our region. But other challenges have ramped up. We talked to two local egg producers, Aaron from Jodar Farms and Sara from Sara’s Pick of the Coop, to help explain what the challenges are now and why it’s possible that we might see egg shortages this summer (and beyond).
Challenge #1: Increase Cost of Feed
With inflation and rising cost of feed, it’s becoming very expensive to buy chicken feed. This means that some farmers are scaling back, purchasing less chickens each year based on how many they know they can afford to feed. This could also lead to increased egg prices in the future.
Because of increased costs, some feed companies are adjusting their recipes to include more affordable ratios of ingredients. This does not mean that the feed does not meet our quality standards, but just that the chickens need to adapt to the new recipe that they may not like as much. If the new recipe is not as favorable to the chickens, they may not eat as much, which can subsequently lead to a decrease in how many eggs they lay.
Challenge #2: Hotter temperatures
Pasture raised chickens are used to spending much of the day outside on the land, and just like with humans, they can slow down when it’s hot out. In extreme and consistent heat, chickens need to conserve their energy, take more time to rest, and try to avoid overheating. The heat also causes chickens to eat less, much like humans who may experience a decrease in appetite when it’s incredibly hot outside. Sara, from Sara’s Pick of the Coop, says she puts up extra shade tarps and water for the chickens, but these measures are not a foolproof remedy for the negative impacts heat can have on the flock.
Challenge #3: Chicken Laying Cycles
Jodar Farms and Sara’s Pick of the Coop are both local farms that provide their chickens with ample pasture to graze on year round. In our conversation with Sara she reiterated that chickens are animals! They are living creatures, and they get to decide if they want to lay. “We aren’t factory farming here”, she says. Aaron also explains that eggs are a seasonal item and chicks do not lay year round. He states, “You cannot have consistent eggs year round without climate controlled, industrialized egg production” which may be a new concept to consumers who are used to purchasing eggs in the store year round.
On local farms that use organic, humane, and pasture raised practices, there are natural waxes and wanes in egg production, with the height of the egg season being in the spring. Local producers are often able to sell eggs in other seasons due to strategic planning of purchasing different breeds of chickens at different ages and with various laying cycles. However, producing quality eggs at various times of the year is not an exact science. Just like with fruits and veggies, there are a lot of outside factors such as cost and temperature that impact production.
GoFarm partners with wonderful local producers (Sara’s Pick of the Coop, Jodar Farms, East Denver Food Hub, and High Plains Food Coop) to supply eggs for our Local Food Share shareholders, mobile market customers, food pantry partners, etc. Because we work with multiple partners, we are able to continue providing eggs for all of you, amidst the challenges that each farmer might face. Though there may be times where we are also impacted by the challenges our egg producers are facing, and egg shortages might occur, and we want you to know why!
All in all, farming and raising animals requires a lot of hard-work, passion, and resilience. Through the ups and downs of the season, we appreciate you joining us in supporting local producers!