Egg Supply Chain – 192 large companies own 95% of laying hens

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Friends tell me that they continue to have eggs – just avoiding poached ones ever since the salmonella issue came up. But this was before the Washington Post article which reports that just 192 large companies own 95% of all laying hens in the US. This number was 2500 companies in 1987. All the brands (or 95 % at least) you see in the supermarket are just re-branded and distributed but originate from just 192 companies that are the consolidated industry.

Economy of scale is great in agriculture but the salmonella recall of over half a billion eggs highlight the problems of large scale agriculture. Just like a huge factory – large farms set up processes and need ERP systems to keep everything in order !

There is just one problem – the hen is a living machine and minor variations in some hen among millions might just  show up later in the distribution channel right  at your plate or stomach! The egg become exposed to ambient temperatures only after it leaves your refrigerator and bugs start waking up.

Things become real complicated when there are thousands of retail brands including liquid bulk packs flowing from these 192 companies. Tracing out which eggs are tainted in the market is tough work and there is now talk of splitting up these mega companies and I am sure there will be a closer look at which brands get distributed where. Meanwhile, consumers will feel wary eating eggs till the whole thing is sorted out.  See Happy Easter Egg Roll and Egg Safety.

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