In January of 2015 it was quietly announce that the Avian flu otherwise known as Bird flu had made its way to the US and was now effecting chicken farms in the Midwest. By May of this year it was announced, a little more loudly this time, that the flu had spread so rapidly 85% of the hen laying egg population had to be destroyed and consumers would soon begin to feel the strain of the virus in their wallets.
As a small craft bakeshop this hard hitting reality caused panic and frustration on my part. Due to the fact I am a small biz (one woman show primarily) I don’t have the luxury of ordering at volume discount from manufactures and suppliers. I am pretty much purchasing all of my ingredients including my eggs at retail cost. While business slows in the summer due to travel and beach body season the fall is approaching quickly and so is baking season. Over the weekend I headed to a wholesale big box store to refresh my supplies and to pick up several cartons of eggs when I almost fainted in the dairy section……WHAT! EGGS $7.98 for 36 ct (GASP, OUTRAGE, TEARS) were just a few of the emotions that flooded my body. Just a few short months ago eggs were half that price. I strolled down a little bit further as I gathered my composure and there it was another SMACK in the face, butter was a whopping $10. We are now talking a 30% increase in the price of butter over the course of 2 months and 50% increase in eggs. This is only a fraction of the ingredients most bakers use but they are the two most critical ingredients. Right now we are hearing reports stating the cost could increase by as much as 19% or more by November, the peak of baking season.
The cost of eggs doesn’t just affect the bakery it affects every facet/layer of the process. Items that use egg by products such as meringue powder is also rising due to increased shortages in dried egg whites, which means less royal icing to make pretty decorated cookies.
While the Avian flu is no longer a major threat over 49 million chickens and turkeys died due to the outbreak. Faced with these staggering and frightening facts in front of me what’s a small bakeshop to do? Do I raise my prices? Do I close my doors and hide my head in the sand and hope it passes quickly or, do I tough it out, limit my menu and pray, you my awesome customers will bear with me during this rough patch. I of course am counting on the later of these scenarios but of course I can’t promise we won’t have to raise our prices at some point. It is expected to take a minimum of two years to recover the full population of lost egg laying hens during this epidemic.