Food News

Nationwide Egg Shortage Hits South Florida Bakeries Where It Hurts

Thanks to a nationwide egg shortage, many people are shelling out more money on breakfast and baked goods. According to the website Food Processing: The Information Source for Food and Beverage Manufacturers, the avian flu (H5N2) outbreak that started in Iowa in mid-April took out more than 31 million chickens and turkeys in that state alone, affecting 77 farms. Statewide egg production in June was 763 million eggs, down a staggering 44 percent from the corresponding month last year.  

According to a recent article by Margery A. Beck of the Associated Press:

The H5N2 avian flu virus began showing up in Midwest commercial turkey and chicken farms this spring. To date, 48 million turkeys and chickens have died or were euthanized to prevent the virus from spreading further....Because of the egg crisis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its forecast for table egg production this year to 6.9 billion dozen, a 5.3 percent drop from 2014. By late May, the price for a dozen Midwest large eggs had soared 120 percent from their mid-April, pre-bird flu prices to $2.62, industry analyst group Urner Barry said. Prices began falling last week, but officials say it could take up to two years to return to normal production.

Although the last reported case of bird flu was more than a month ago, the shock waves continue to affect myriad local economies, including South Florida's. Fewer eggs in the market means higher egg prices, and in an area that easily decimates more flan than the entire nation combined, this means trouble.

“Girl, you’re preaching to the church. I live with this every day,” says Steve Crombe, owner of Sweeter Days Bake Shop in Fort Lauderdale.

Sweeter Days specializes in cupcakes topped with Swiss meringue — not the usual buttercream icing. The meringue involves whipping egg whites and sugar over a bain marie (simmering water bath) until they form soft peaks. This both stabilizes and lightens the icing, making it a light, fluffy mousse. The difference is apparent in the finished product, which is generously dolloped with about 40 percent icing.

After rattling off numbers and percentages he's committed to memory, Crombe’s dilemma is clear: Either raise prices or absorb the cost. (Changing his recipe is not an option.) His choice, for now, is the latter.

“There is a perceived value [in a cupcake]. I have a product that costs $3.30. I can’t take it to $3.75. That’s a huge increase. We want to provide the same great product at the same cost.”
"We're not only getting affected a little," says Leone Padula, owner of Gran Forno on Las Olas Boulevard."We're getting affected a lot."

Gran Forno uses organic eggs in its quiches and bakes about 30 dozen brioche buns per week for other restaurants. To keep his loyal customers returning, Padula does not plan to raise prices. 

For many advocates, this shortage is a recent chapter in the debate over large-scale factory farming. Delray Beach organic farmer Jason "Farmer Jay" McCobb believes that doing away with massive farms housing thousands of chickens in close quarters and that taking it down to the local level is the answer.

“If it weren’t a problem to keep chickens in backyards, then we wouldn’t have egg shortages. We need to stop relying on big corporations to grow all of our food. This is what happens when we do that," says McCobb. “When animals are kept in close proximity, with the inability to move freely, this is where problems occur. When we keep animals moving, pathogens [like H5N2] never catch them.”

McCobb suggests that small bakeries should seek out small-scale, local farmers or even find a way to keep some egg-laying chickens for their own use, to keep things at the local level.

“A flock of 100 birds gives you about 85 eggs per day,” he says.

Another option to beat the price hike is to go entirely egg-free. Vegetarian eateries, like Green Bar & Kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, offer an array of vegan sweets and cupcakes made with healthful egg substitutes.

Owner Elena Pezzo says, "We are psyched nowadays that there are companies like Hampton Creek and EN-R-GY making mainstream egg alternatives that are more affordable, healthier, and more sustainably produced than eggs. The company pairs scientists and chefs to study plants and transform them into a viable substitute for animal-based foods. This is great news for plant-based cafes like ourselves."

Sweeter Days Bake Shop is located in the Plaza Del Mar Shopping Center: 1497 N. Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale. Hours 
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 954-396-3979, or visit

Gran Forno is located at 1235 E. Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Call 954-467-2244, or visit

Green Bar & Kitchen is located at 1075 SE 17th St. Fort Lauderdale. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. 
Call 954-533-7507, or visit