While Iowa continues to lead the nation in egg production and the industry supports over 8,000 jobs across the state, some producers might leave the industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to Associate Scientist in the Department of Animal Sciences at Iowa State University Maro Ibarburu. Seventy percent of Iowa’s layer flocks produce for the liquid egg market which are sent primarily to schools, restaurants, hotels, and other food service markets across Iowa. When these establishments shut down in the spring, that caused a disruption in the market. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says due to the pandemic, liquid egg prices dropped 68%. Ibarburu says at one point the price for a gallon of purified water, 9.6 cents per pound, cost more than the price of liquid eggs, eight cents per pound. He outlines the situation, “Some of the market has recovered. For example now we are talking about 21 cents per pound, which is still lower than the feed costs today. If you look at food service transactions they have really improved over the last couple of months. If we look at the end of March, they were about 43 percent below the year before and now we are talking about 10 percent below the year before in total traffic. We don’t know how much of this is eggs, but at least the total traffic for food service is recovering.”
Egg producers are now eligible to receive financial compensation through the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program. For each layer hen a producer had to euthanize between April 1 and July 20, they would receive 25 cents. Ibarburu says while the price per hen is hard to calculate due to a multitude of factors, that price is not nearly enough to compensate for overall losses caused by the pandemic. The number of euthanized hens in southeast Iowa during the pandemic has not been released by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. With schools and restaurants reopening, Ibarburu hopes the price of liquid eggs will continue to rise and keep producers in the market for the foreseeable future.