New export certification could boost Iowa egg industry

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service certification expansion to now include egg-containing products

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A new federal program certifying processed eggs and egg products for export is expected to open doors for Iowa egg producers and processors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service has certified shell eggs for export for many years, but will expand its services to support egg-containing products. The latter includes omelets, frozen egg patties, crepes, hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and food containing egg extracts.

"Anything that increases international market opportunities is a good thing for the Iowa egg industry," said Kevin Vinchattle, chief executive officer and executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association/Iowa Egg Council.

"It allows a processor to ship an an egg patty that also contains ham and cheese, something they haven't been able to do in the past. Processors have missed out on marketing opportunities in many countries."

Iowa leads the nation in egg production, producing 14.5 billion eggs in 2011, according to an Iowa State University study released in January. The egg industry employs an estimated 3,700 hatchery, production, and processing workers, generating over $156 million in direct annual payroll.

With total labor income of $424 million and nearly 7,960 direct and indirect  jobs, the ISU study estimated that Iowa's egg industry has an annual  economic impart of $657 million.

Jennifer Geck, manager of allied industry relations for the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council in Stone Mountain, Ga., said the potential export market for processed eggs and egg products is estimated to be $500 million.

"South Korea has been interested in frozen egg patties for its food service market," Geck said. "Mexico, which is the largest per capita consumer of eggs, is interested in hard boiled eggs as a quick source of protein. When representatives visited this country, they saw hard boiled eggs in vending machines and became very interested in that product."

Geck said the European Union has been requesting information on crepes. She added Michael Foods in Lenox, Iowa, has been producing various egg products for the U.S. market and will likely explore export sales.

A number of factors account for the growth of the egg industry in Iowa in recent years. Per capital consumption increased from 234 in 1991 to 258 by 2006.

Iowa has a competitive advantage due to low feed costs. Feed costs represent approximately 67 percent of costs to produce a dozen eggs and most competing states face higher feed costs than Iowa.

Iowa also has capitalized on the rapidly growing market for processed eggs, which insur lower transportation costs to major population centers on the East and West Coasts.

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