Why is there an egg shortage? Here’s why supermarkets are running out of eggs

British supermarkets are struggling to meet demand for eggs

Co-op branded eggs on a shelf in the supermarket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been to the supermarket recently, you might be wondering why is there an egg shortage? 

Over the last few months, shoppers in the UK have been wondering why are food prices going up (opens in new tab), as familiar items such as Heinz ketchup and Lurpak butter have increased in cost (opens in new tab). The changes have left many wanting to know which is the cheapest supermarket (opens in new tab), to help save on the weekly shop.

Another household item that has seen a price increase in recent months is eggs. But since the hike, they seemed to have disappeared from the shelves, with shoppers taking to social media to share photos of empty supermarket aisles. With some stores even rationing how many boxes their customers can buy, people are now wondering why is there an egg shortage?

Why is there an egg shortage?

There are a number of factors affecting egg supply, and these include food shortages, rising energy costs (opens in new tab), and bird flu. This means that egg farmers are struggling to make enough money amid feed shortages and rising energy costs, while chickens have been culled due to the flu outbreak.

The shortage has resulted in supermarkets rationing eggs, with shoppers at Lidl sharing signs urging people to limit the number of eggs they buy, while Asda confirmed to the Sun (opens in new tab) that shoppers can only purchase two packs of eggs each at all of its 630 stores across the country. Wetherspoons has been offering breakfast substitutes - such as hash browns, sausages or onion rings - as their egg supply runs low.

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Food shortages

In August, the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association (opens in new tab) (BFREPA) called for more support for egg producers amid a chicken-feed shortage caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the cost of feed going up by 50%.

BEFRA had previously warned that unless egg producers received 40p more per dozen eggs, that some would leave the industry or pause production, and now it seems that has become a reality. The Guardian (opens in new tab) recently reported that a third of farmers surveyed by the trade body said they had reduced the number of hens in their flock because egg prices meant they were unable to cover their costs, while a quarter said they had stopped production either temporarily or permanently.

Conwy farmer Llŷr Jones told North Wales Live (opens in new tab): "My own feed costs went from £250 to £400 per tonne. It meant my monthly feed bills went from £30,000 to £50,000. Supermarkets started charging more for eggs but didn’t pass much on to producers.

"They began to question why they should restock their hen sheds if it meant they were going to lose money. The industry warned supermarkets what would happen but they didn’t listen. Now eggs prices are shooting up because there’s a shortage."

Rising energy costs

The rising energy costs that are being seen across the UK are also having an impact on farmers, and though the price of eggs has gone up by roughly 45p in major supermarkets, this extra money often isn’t received by the producers.

A spokesperson for BFREPA has said: "We warned 10 months ago that producers would pause or halt production if they weren’t paid a fair price for their product, and that the knock-on effect would be fewer hens and fewer eggs."

Meanwhile, BFREPA chief executive Robert Gooch (opens in new tab) has said: "We welcome the small rise in egg prices in supermarkets but it needs to go further and the money needs to make its way to farmers, not into the pockets of the supermarkets and the egg packers.

"Not one retailer has done what was asked and increased egg prices by 40p. Only then will many producers be able to break even."

One Welsh farmer, Ioan Humphreys, took to Twitter to express his frustration, claiming that supermarkets aren't paying British farmers a fair price, and are instead choosing to import their eggs from countries like Italy.

He said: "I've got no problem with the Italian farming or the Italian egg industry, nothing at all. But we have the infrastructure in the UK to be producing these eggs.

"Because we're not getting a fair price in the UK, we're leaving sheds empty, so then we've got to import Italian eggs. 

"All the supermarkets have to do is pay a fair price to British farmers and the British farmers will produce British eggs."

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A spokesperson for Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (opens in new tab) (DEFRA) has said: "We understand the difficulties that rising costs combined with the bird-flu outbreak are causing for farmers, and we are working with industry to monitor the egg market."

Avian flu

The Guardian (opens in new tab) reports that there has been nearly 100 confirmed cases of bird flu H5N1 since the start of October, and that it has been detected at more than 70 premises - making it the UK's largest ever outbreak of the flu.

Since November 7, bird keepers in England have been required to keep all poultry and captive birds inside to protect their flocks from disease, while many infected birds have been culled. Keeping hens indoors also contributes to the rising costs that farmers are facing.

The UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss (opens in new tab) said in a statement: "We are now facing this year, the largest-ever outbreak of bird flu, and are seeing rapid escalation in the number of cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds across England.

"The risk of kept birds being exposed to disease has reached a point where it is now necessary for all birds to be housed until further notice."

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Ellie Hutchings
Junior Features Writer

Ellie joined Goodto as a Junior Features Writer in 2022 after finishing her Master’s in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University. Previously, she completed successful work experience placements with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue and the Nottingham Post, and freelanced as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. In 2021, Ellie graduated from Cardiff University with a first-class degree in Journalism.