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Insights into the European egg market

A review of 2020 and analysis of future trends

Looking for useful insights into how the egg market coped in 2020 and what you can look forward to in the near future? Us too. So we sat down with one of Europe’s leading experts, Margit M. Beck for a chat. Margit is responsible for the market reporting of MEG (Marktinfo Eier&Geflügel) and has been analysing the market sectors for eggs and poultry for more than 30 years.

Here's what she told us about...

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Margit M. Beck

...the biggest current issue - Covid-19 and how it has affected the overall egg market in 2020

Well of course, no-one – in any industry – anticipated any event on this kind of scale.

The lockdown measures across Europe led to falls in out-of-home consumption, while food retail purchases received an unexpected boost.

So yes, it caught people off guard. But to the egg industry’s credit, it quickly adapted to the changing flow of goods.

...changes in the EU egg production and consumption in 2020

The EU Commission estimates that use of both shell eggs and egg products declined by 0.2 kg to 13.8 kg per head of population (compared with 14 kg in 2019).

As you’d expect, lockdowns and the lack of catering outlets have led to an increase in home cooking and snacking. But although private cooking has increased, egg consumption fell.

This is because restaurants, bars and takeaways wavered between partial and total closure as lockdown rules fluctuated – so use of shell eggs and industrially-processed eggs (which are normally used to prepare meals in restaurants, canteens etc) dropped accordingly.

Source: MEG as per EU Commission

...predictions for the future of egg production and consumption

Over the next few years, the European Commission’s experts foresee a moderate increase in egg production and consumption.

By 2030, consumption per head will probably rise from 14.2 kg in 2021 to 15.0 kg while production should have grown to 6.77 million tonnes – that’s an average annual increase of 0.7%.

This surplus production is expected to be used for the EU’s own internal consumption.

Source: MEG as per EU Commission

...the development of housing types

Since the EU banned conventional cage rearing in 2012, they’ve been replaced with enriched cages in most countries. While the percentages of organic, free-range and barn systems have increased in recent years, enriched cage systems continued to decrease. Alternatives are now being developed in more and more countries.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden primarily use barn systems, while Denmark, France and Ireland, for instance, prefer outdoor runs. This development towards kinder husbandry will continue – but with broad variations across borders. 

However, considerable volumes of products produced under lower welfare conditions are still imported from the Ukraine, the US and Argentina – so these could undermine the EU cross-community husbandry standards.

Source: MEG as per EU Commission | 2020 not yet available at the time of publication

...the upward trend of organic eggs

Across the EU, organic eggs have become gradually more important over recent years, growing from 3.7 % of production in 2012 to 5.9 % by 2019.

But the importance of organic farming varies greatly from country to country. In some states, higher standards are demanded by animal welfare organisations and consumers, or they’re enforced by political movements. In Denmark, the proportion was already a remarkable 32.1 % in 2019, and in Austria and Germany it was also above average at 12 %.

Despite all this, in many other countries organic housing still has a marginal or non-existent role.

Free-range farming on the rise

...the egg market outside the EU and trends that could spread beyond our borders

The MEG puts average global egg consumption at about 170 eggs per person and expects that to increase over the next few years. And while consumption is already quite high in the US for example (293 per capita), there’s a lot of room for growth in India (currently 77 per capita), and large parts of the African continent.

Discussions about animal welfare and consequent husbandry improvements will vary greatly across different regions of the world due to the broad economic disparities. In countries where the primary concern is nutrition of the population, animal welfare naturally plays a subordinate role.

But then in other countries, alternative forms of husbandry are on the increase. For instance, in the US and Canada, where cage farming was very common, there’s now a significant movement towards cage-free eggs.

 

...global trends in the next few years

The recurring outbreaks of avian influenza remain a challenge for the egg industry.
As discussed, we’ll see an increasing trend away from enriched cages towards other housing types like free-range and organic farming.

We can also expect an increasing trend towards even more animal welfare concepts - driven by either national regulations or consumer demand. For example, mobile henhouses or Germany's upcoming ban on the killing of male laying chicks could still be adopted by other countries, if new initiatives for better animal welfare are also considered there.

 

We would like to thank Margit for the valuable data and the outlook into the egg industry of tomorrow.

Now, what can egg producers and marketers take away from this?

No. ONE

The egg market is substantial and growing, thanks to increasing worldwide population (and egg consumption). And being so affordable, eggs will continue to play a huge part in the nutrition of people in all corners of the earth. In many emerging and developing countries the sales of eggs is driven by urbanisation and a continued development of the retail industry. Therefore, producers should always be ready to scale up the supply of shell eggs and egg products.

No. TWO

There are major shifts in the types of husbandry. The trend towards kinder husbandry practices varies from country to country but is likely to take hold in more and more countries. At the end of the day, it’s the consumer who decides and drives the change. So, egg producers can take advantage of the growth in welfare-oriented consumer segments by launching new brands and focus on capacity to escalate free-range and organic egg sales.

No. THREE

You can’t beat an egg when it comes to healthy, sustainable nutrition. Eggs are the most versatile food - they can be cooked in so many ways and form a staple of just about every cuisine around the globe. As a producer and egg marketer you can advertise this accordingly - on the pack, in your own farm shop, on the supermarket shelf, on your website or wherever. We at Hartmann will be happy to advise and help you. Click here for our customer cases.

About MEG and its work
MEG stands for “Marktinfo Eier & Geflügel” (= Market info eggs & poultry) and provides independent data analysis and forecasts for all stakeholders in the egg and poultry industry. MEG is located in Bonn/Germany, prepares market data and informs the industry through various offline and online services, reports, presentations and studies. In addition, a statistical book is published every year.

24 March 2021
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