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

British supermarkets are struggling to meet the demand for eggs

Emoty supermarket shelves next to a sign saying 'Eggs'
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been to the supermarket recently, you might be wondering why is there an egg shortage? It's a similar story with the current pepper shortage, fruit and veg shortage and Coffee Mate shortage too. 

Over the last few months, shoppers in the UK have been wondering why are food prices going up, as familiar items such as Heinz ketchup and Lurpak butter have increased in cost. The changes have left many wanting to know which is the cheapest supermarket, 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 there is 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, 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 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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1. Food shortages

In August, the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association (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%.

Both Russia and Ukraine are major producers of wheat, which is a key ingredient in chicken feed.

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 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: "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."

2. Rising energy costs

The rising energy costs 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 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 (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."

Meanwhile, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told BBC News: "Supermarkets source the vast majority of their food from the UK and know they need to pay a sustainable price to egg farmers.

"However, they are also facing additional costs and are working incredibly hard to limit price increases for consumers during a cost-of-living crisis where many people are struggling to afford the essentials."

3. Avian flu

According to DEFRA, there has been 175 confirmed cases of bird flu H5N1 since October 2022. Cases have been recorded across Britain, and it is 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 - and this is now the case in Wales too - 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 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."

However, farmer Ioan Humphries has accused the supermarkets of using avian flu as an excuse for the egg shortage, saying in a video posted on Instagram: "There are not many eggs on the shelf to buy, not free range, not organic, nothing. So you struggling to find eggs. Supermarkets are going to tell you this is because of avian flu. Which to be fair, there has been a lot of cases of avian flu.

"But you want to know the real reason why there's an egg shortage? It is because the supermarkets won't pay the farmers for the eggs. So the supermarkets have upped their price for you, the consumer. But they haven't filtered that price increase down to us, the farmers. So our cost of producing these eggs has skyrocketed, feed, electric, the price of new birds, they have gone up. But our price of eggs has stayed the same. So we physically can't afford to produce these eggs."

How many eggs can I buy?

  • Asda - two boxes of eggs at a time (though they have not said whether this applies boxes containing six or 12 eggs)
  • Lidl - three boxes of eggs at a time
  • Tesco - three boxes of eggs at a time
  • Morrisons - two boxes of eggs at a time
  • Ocado - two-box limit on certain egg brands

According to BBC News, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and the Co-op are not currently rationing eggs.

British Retail Consortium director Andrew Opie has said: "While avian flu has disrupted the supply of some egg ranges, retailers are experts at managing supply chains and are working hard to minimise impact on customers. Some stores have introduced temporary limits on the number of boxes customers can buy to ensure availability for everyone.

"Furthermore, retailers have long-standing, established relationships with their suppliers and know how important maintaining these are for their customers and businesses. Supermarkets source the vast majority of their food from the UK and know they need to pay a sustainable price to egg farmers but are constrained by how much additional cost they can pass onto consumers during a cost-of-living crisis."

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Ellie Hutchings
Features Editor

Ellie is Goodto’s Feature Editor, having joined the team as a Junior Features Writer in 2022, and covers everything from wellbeing for parents to the latest TV and entertainment. Ellie has covered all the latest trends in the parenting world, including baby names, parenting hacks, and foodie tips for busy families. She has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University, and previously Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies.