Good News on Global Egg Consumption

Egg consumption per person continues to rise, however, further research is required to determine the reasons for differences in uptake between countries, writes Terry Evans for ThePoultrySite.
calendar icon 2 December 2009
clock icon 7 minute read

Most of the member countries of the International Egg Commission (IEC) reported either stable or increased egg consumption per person last year (see table below).

Mexico regained the number one spot from China, which slipped to third place behind Japan. However, it should be noted that there is considerable scope for errors in the way the data is compiled and differences of just a few eggs per person per year may not be significant.

In several instances, the data – compiled from information received from IEC reporters in the member countries – indicates the consumption of egg products as well as that of shell eggs in the total figures. The Japanese consume the largest number of eggs in product forms, the total being equivalent to 175 shell eggs per person.

An analysis by Peter van Horne the IEC's economist, presented in the Commission's International Egg Market Annual Review, broadly reveals that in Europe, egg consumption falls between 150 and 300 eggs. Uptake is particularly low in Finland and Ireland but high in Denmark and Hungary.

Outside Europe, consumption is spectacularly high at more than 300 eggs per person in Japan, China and Mexico. While the uptake/person is low in India, at just 48 eggs, when this figure is applied to the large human population of 1.2 billion, this country becomes the third largest hen egg producer in the world, behind China and the USA!

Egg consumption in IEC member countries
2007 2008
Country millions In shell Products Total In shell Products Total
Australia 21.6 166 - 166 196 - 196
Austria 9.0 n/a n/a 230 n/a n/a 236
Belgium 10.6 108 92 200 92 92 184
Brazil 189.6 120 12 132 114 7 121
Canada 33.3 132 42 174 134 47 181
China 1350.0 286 63 349 283 50 333
Columbia 45.0 188 - 188 199 - 199
Cyprus 0.8 157 - 157 198 - 198
Czech Republic 10.0 244 - 244 313 - 313
Denmark 5.5 174 126 300 n/a n/a n/a
Finland 5.3 129 21 150 140 22 162
France 63.9 169 76 245 172 76 248
Germany 82.2 n/a n/a 210 n/a n/a 212
Greece 11.0 n/a n/a 136 127 12 139
Hungary 10.0 n/a n/a 295 n/a n/a 251
India 1206.0 47 - 47 48 - 48
Iran 72.0 158 - 158 158 - 158
Ireland 4.2 150 15 165 150 15 165
Italy 58.1 150 74 224 150 74 224
Japan 127.8 155 169 324 159 175 334
Mexico 106.7 345 - 345 345 - 345
Netherlands 16.5 140 42 182 142 40 182
New Zealand 4.3 n/a n/a 218 n/a n/a 225
Norway 4.7 160 26 186 n/a n/a n/a
Portugal 9.9 154 - 154 n/a n/a n/a
Slovakia 5.0 n/a n/a n/a 204 - 204
South Africa 48.7 130 7 137 130 7 137
Spain 46.2 n/a n/a 191 n/a n/a 189
Sweden 9.2 162 35 197 159 38 197
Switzerland 7.8 117 72 189 118 68 186
Ukraine 46.0 280 11 291 260 n/a n/a
United Arab Emirates 5.0 117 17 134 n/a n/a n/a
United Kingdom 60.0 143 35 178 147 36 183
United States 304.0 172 78 250 169 79 248
n/a = not available
Data from IEC's Annual International Egg Market Review

Mr van Horne stresses that many factors influence egg consumption levels including culture, tradition, income and religion. On the aspect of income he has shown that, in many countries (north-west Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia) where the gross national income per person ranges between US$20,000 and $40,000, egg uptake is between 150 and 300 per person per year.

However, he said: "Many countries with a lower average income have similar egg consumption, for example Argentina and Thailand where uptakes average between 150 and 180 eggs/person. However, while China and Mexico have relatively low average incomes their egg consumption is very high.

"Probably consumer preferences with special dishes and other food traditions influence consumption in these countries. The low consumption in India possibly relates to religion, as a large sector of the population does not eat any animal products, including eggs."

However, he stresses that further research is needed to clarify differences in consumption between countries, which would be particularly relevant to forecast future consumption levels, as incomes will increase in most countries in the years to come.

Regarding the observations on egg consumption made by IEC reporters in the organisation's Annual Review, it appears that, in Australia, consumption in the long term is increasing at around 2.4 per cent a year. This is mainly for shell eggs, with only limited demand from food processors for egg products such as powder.

In Austria, a ban on eggs from conventional cages from January 2009 means that retailers are now only selling barn, free-range or organic eggs. This has produced a significant shift towards barn production systems.

A further reduction in consumption can be expected in Brazil this year, primarily as a result of a cut-back in layer numbers although there has also been a dramatic increase in exports.

In Canada, retail sales in 2008 were up by more than five per cent year-on-year, reportedly driven primarily by purchases of cage eggs. Although the growth in speciality eggs has slowed, total sales in 2008 were still higher than in the previous year. The aim is to expand sales of all eggs by another 1.5 per cent this year.

In China, the melamine issue has hit exports of fresh eggs and egg products while domestic sales have been hurt by inflated prices as higher feed and energy costs have prompted many producers to leave the industry.

In 2008, almost all food retailers in Germany stopped selling eggs from any type of cage system. This has made it difficult for producers of eggs from the so-called colony cages to find distribution channels. Hence, the switch to this form of production system has been smaller than previously expected. The level of self-sufficiency has fallen further to 67 per cent boosting the demand for egg imports.

A depressed economy in Hungary has impacted adversely on food purchases, including eggs, with almost no demand for premium items as consumers look for the cheapest products.

Purchases of deep litter, free-range and biological eggs continue to rise in the Netherlands such that, in 2008, cage eggs accounted for only 11 per cent of consumption.

Demand for organic eggs continues to grow in Switzerland, where they account for 14 per cent of home-produced eggs, though it should be noted that the self-sufficiency rate there is just 47 per cent!

A packed promotional campaign helped ensure a buoyant market in the UK in 2008 with consumption increasing by around three per cent. This sales growth has been sustained over the first half of 2009, aided by more good news on cholesterol, which the British Egg Information Service (BEIS) has exploited through its 'lifting the limits' campaign.

In the US, multiple legislative efforts by the Humane Society and other groups with the aim of abolishing cages, has resulted in Californians (America's fifth largest egg producing state) voting in favour of increasing layer space requirements to a level that would make cage-egg production impractical. Almost identical legislation is currently being discussed for Ohio (the second largest egg state), while other states are considering similar legislation.

November 2009

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