Chicken farmers say their eggs could help bring prices down

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — U.S. poultry producers want to do their part to lower currently soaring egg prices by selling their 400 million surplus eggs to food producers.

But first they have to convince the FDA to change the rule that prevents eggs laid by chickens in the meat industry from being used for human consumption.

Egg prices have risen over the past year thanks to the ongoing avian flu outbreak and the highest inflation in decades, prompting calls for an investigation into price cuts. The national average retail price of a dozen eggs hit $4.25 in December, up from $1.79 a year earlier, according to the latest government data.

The National Chicken Council’s trade group filed a formal petition with the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday asking officials to scrap a rule passed in 2009 that prevents chicken producers from selling their excess eggs because they aren’t refrigerated immediately.

“Already facing record egg prices, consumers could be hit even harder on their wallets as we head into the Easter season unless the FDA provides us with a pathway to put these eggs to good use,” he said. Ashley Peterson, senior vice president, commercial group. scientific and regulatory affairs.

The avian flu epidemic has had a huge impact on egg prices because more than 43 million of the 58 million birds that have been slaughtered to help control the spread of the virus were laying hens. But egg farmers have also been grappling with high feed, fuel and labor costs that have contributed to rising prices.

It’s not clear exactly what impact producers of chicken eggs they want to sell might have on prices, because about 100 billion eggs are produced in the United States each year, so adding another 400 million to the market might not have a huge effect.

The FDA said it will review the Chicken Council’s petition and respond directly to that group. But food safety concerns are what prompted them to adopt the rule that banned the sale of eggs in the first place.

When a broiler hatchery produces eggs, they are held at 65 degrees until they are ready to be placed in the incubators to be hatched. The FDA has stated in its rule that eggs that will be used for food must be stored at temperatures below 45 degrees within 36 hours.

The Chicken Council said it believed the eggs would be safe because they would be pasteurized before being used by food manufacturers. Eggs that chicken producers don’t need to produce more chickens for meat production would not be sold to consumers in grocery stores. Instead, they would go to food producers and processed eggs that are sold to bakers and other food companies.

The Chicken Council estimates that this FDA rule prohibiting the sale of these eggs costs chicken farmers an estimated $27 million annually because the eggs are currently thrown away, processed or used for animal feed.

But trade group United Egg Producers said it would be a bad idea to relax food safety rules to allow these eggs laid by chicken producers to be sold.

“Egg safety is always the top priority for American egg farmers, as is strict compliance with all food safety regulatory requirements,” said Oscar Garrison, vice president of food safety regulatory affairs at the trade group. some eggs. “United Egg Producers oppose National Chicken Council petition because it fails to comply with egg safety standard.”

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