Could eggs shell-out? Bird flu sees shoppers scramble as supermarket rationing looms

8 November 2022, 08:51

Supermarket shelves remain empty in some areas as egg shortages look likely
Supermarket shelves remain empty in some areas as egg shortages look likely. Picture: Alamy / Batchelder / Alamy Stock Photo

By Danielle DeWolfe

Rising levels of bird flu across the UK are raising concerns among shoppers that egg rationing could soon be on the horizon.

Supermarket shelves up and down the country have become increasingly empty, as the wave of bird flu currently affecting the nation has resulted in the culling of millions of birds.

Recent weeks have seen signs appear in branches of Sainsbury’s and Aldi, highlighting supplier issues, as it’s been widely reported that popular pub chain Wetherspoons has also found itself short.

One sign in Sainsbury’s read: ‘Can’t find the eggs you want? We’re dealing with supplier issues right now. We’re sorry for any hassle this causes.'

Shoppers now fear that eggs could shell-out entirely, as the scarcity of breakfast staple becomes difficult to egg-nore.

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Bird flu has led to the culling of some 48 million birds
Bird flu has led to the culling of some 48 million birds. Picture: LBC / Alamy

To-date, around 48 million chickens across the UK have so far been culled as a result of the bird flu crisis, affecting chickens reared for meat as well as eggs.

It follows warnings that turkeys could be in short supply this Christmas, with producers given the nod to freeze poultry before defrosting in order to maintain an adequate supply.

Asda has already rationed purchases of its budget lines – a shortage believed to be linked to poor weather in Europe. It follows the period of lockdown which saw supermarkets implement restrictions on the purchase of key cupboard staples – including eggs and flour.

Charles Mears, a farmer in Wareseley, Cambridgeshire, told the Daily Mail: “We’ve been warning people for a long time, but people have been expecting cheap food, which just isn’t sustainable.

“If the Government does not intervene to support farmers, there will be no eggs by Christmas.”

Meanwhile, the British Free Range Egg Producers Association said: “We warned ten 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.”

The timing of the shortages affecting the cupboard staple couldn’t be worse, as soaring food inflation – which hit 14.6 per cent in the 12 months to the end of September – was compounded by the ongoing energy crisis.