Mexico hit by egg shortage

An employee walks in front of chickens in cages in a farm under quarantine, following a bird flu outbreak in Tepatitlan, Jalisco State, Mexico on July 04, 2012. Mexican government declared a national animal health emergency on Monday in the face of an aggressive bird flu epidemic that has infected nearly 1.7 million poultry. The emergency declaration included provisions for quarantine, slaughter, vaccination, and the destruction of infected products.

Tess Vigeland: Mexico is dealing with a big problem right now, and it has nothing to do with narco-traffickers or political instability.

No, the big issue is an egg shortage. An outbreak of avian flu has devastated the Mexican poultry industry, driving down the egg supply in a country that consumes more eggs per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler starts his report in the kitchen.


Jeff Tyler: Almost every day at our building’s café, I order eggs with chorizo. Like most Americans, I eat lots of eggs. But Mexicans have us beat.

Jim Sumner is president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

Jim Sumner: Their total consumption is about 385 eggs per capita. Amazing. I don’t know how they consume so many.

Price is one reason.

Gustavo Arellano: It’s a cheap meal.

Gustavo Arellano is author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.”

Arellano: Growing up, we always had eggs with everything. Egg accentuates and combines with so many different foods that you can never get tired of using eggs. Huevos con chorizo. Huevos con nopales. Huevos con arroz. Huevos con huevos.

Egg prices have doubled in some parts of Mexico. But Arellano says Mexican consumers won’t be deterred.

Arellano: They’re not going to give up the eggs. If you’re going to have to pay more for eggs, you’re probably going to scrimp on beef or some other meal.

This might normally be an opportunity for U.S. egg producers. But drought and high temperatures mean a tight market for eggs in this country too. Jim Sumner with the Egg Export Council says U.S. producers can adapt.

Jim Sumner: There may be an opportunity for our industry to gear-up its production some what to help fulfill these needs.

Producers in the U.S. plan to send about 300 truckloads of eggs to Mexico. They sent the first trial load today.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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