Higher egg prices yield demand for alternatives

Should startups go all-in or wait and see?

Price parity with traditional foods is one of the main challenges for alternative protein startups. However, the avian flu, a shortage of cage-free eggs and a subsequent rise in prices in late 2022 seems to provide an “in” for alternative egg companies to show they can compete.

Egg prices rose from a couple of dollars, depending on geographic location, to over $5 a dozen in December as the avian flu spread across all 50 states, killing millions of chickens and turkeys, and causing shoppers to rethink purchasing the pantry staple and future meal plans. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that egg prices rose 8.5% between December and January, while the year-over-year pricing jumped 70%.

There is some good news: Cases of avian flu fell in January with fewer than 500,000 in total poultry deaths compared with more than 5 million in December, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. However, Rosemary Sifford, the USDA’s chief veterinary officer, told The Wall Street Journal that this could be short-lived. She said that when wild birds migrate in the spring, the virus is likely to surge again.

While this might seem like an opportunity, I spoke with some startups in this sector and investors to see if alternative egg companies can and should take advantage and race to get their product to market or expand their consumer base.