Swiss Better Match Egg Supply and Demand07 April 2010
SWITZERLAND - Egg producers have suggested keeping hens in lay for longer as a way to match supply and demand better.
Around two million Swiss laying-hens were busy up to and during Easter as consumers bought eggs to celebrate the holidays in the traditional way, reports SwissInfo.
With Easter over, the appetite for eggs has returned to normal and demand has dwindled – resulting in a surplus. The problem is to some extent solved with the slaughtering of more hens now than is normal.
The government has also lent a hand by contributing two million Swiss francs (CHF; $1.87 million) to help bring the market back on track.
Oswald Burch, managing director of the GalloSuisse producers' association, said: "A quarter of the money is used for the lowering of prices within a limited time and the other three-quarters is used for eggs that go into the [food] production process."
That means that while many eggs will end up soft-boiled on the breakfast table, others are destined for the production of pasta, biscuits or other baking products.
But Swiss egg producers face the problem that the government is cutting the subsidy and they will find it difficult to sell their eggs for production purposes; most eggs used by the food industry are imported.
Both Mr Burch and Hannes Messer, director of egg wholesalers EiCO, feel there is potential for Swiss production eggs.
Mr Messer explained: “But we can only produce more when the [food] industry recognises [the value] of Swiss eggs."
Mr Burch at GalloSuisse knows exactly where the problem lies.
He said: "The potential is rather big but it is a bit difficult to get people in the production business to use Swiss eggs. They can import eggs, which are less expensive. The industry tends to keep costs as low as possible and prefer imported eggs to Swiss eggs.
"That is a key problem. If we could succeed to get a foothold in this segment, it would help a great deal."
Industry, quite naturally, also wants eggs that are available all year round, rather than for a limited period, for example around Easter.
Egg dealer, Othmar Hungerbühler, says that Swiss eggs will never be competitive when compared with the cheaper foreign competition.
But, according to SwissInfo, he has come up with a solution, shared by others, to try help ease the problem. That would entail Swiss producers increasing the availability of their hens' eggs for industry by allowing their birds to live longer.
On average, a Swiss hen lays an egg once a day for 12 months or so. Extending its life for another three months would provide the eggs that could then go into food production.
There would be less profit for the producer because laying hens slow down after 12 months, their egg shells tend to become thinner and the eggs themselves increase in size. But it may well be seen as a plus for those consumers who buy their eggs straight from the farm and appreciate larger sizes.
GalloSuisse director, Mr Burch, also sees an ethical side to allowing hens to live longer before slaughter.
He told SwissInfo: "The egg-producing hens live for a year or so and then they are slaughtered because there are new hens to be put in the hen houses. That in itself is an ethical problem for a lot of people.
"So, if the hens live longer, they don’t have to be replaced as soon by younger hens. You could look at that and say it reduces the problem."