How do you like your eggs? Forget scrambled or over-easy — do you want them organic, Omega-3 enriched, cage-free, free-range, vegetarian-fed or pasture-raised?
The grocery store egg cooler holds an unprecedented array of options — not to mention a vast price range. A dozen eggs costs less than $2 or almost $9. The choices can be tricky for grocery shoppers to navigate. And they have real implications for Washington farms and grocers.
Eggs are a growing business. The average American eats 256 eggs per year, according to the American Egg Board, which represents a four egg increase in the last couple of years.
There are 1,053 licensed egg dealers in Washington, according to Kim Schmanke, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue. That’s nearly a 25 percent increase since 2013, when the state had just 884 licensed egg dealers in the state. The current figure includes large operations such as Wilcox Farm, in Roy, which has more than 800,000 hens. It also includes small ones such as the Kelsey Family Farm, in Brush Prairie, which has about 325 hens.
Some of the fastest market growth is among so-called “specialty” eggs. The two best-selling specialty categories are “organic” and “cage-free,” according to the American Egg Board. But conventional eggs still dominate the market. In May 2014, those two specialty categories combined to make up just 5.7 percent of U.S. egg production, according to the industry group.