American kitchen staples celebrated in May

May is National Egg Month as well as National Beef Month and both industries are celebrating and promoting their products.

The American Egg Board (AEB) takes time during May to educate consumers about the numerous benefits of eggs. According to AEB, every 235 million laying-birds in the U.S. produces 250 to 300 eggs a year.

The most common egg consumed is the chicken egg, however duck and goose eggs and smaller eggs, such as, quail eggs are occasionally used as a gourmet ingredient as are the largest bird eggs - ostrich.

One of the best benefits to consumers is that the majority of eggs are inexpensive but there is more to eggs than good value. They are also nutritious, easy to prepare, versatile and very tasty.

According to an article by Our Ohio magazine, “Eggs are one way Americans can stay strong as they get older. Macular degeneration – a leading cause of irreversible blindness – is a concern for seniors. Lutein and zeaxanthin found in egg yolks may both reduce the risk for cataracts and help prevent macular degeneration.”

Though most appreciate the taste and health benefits of eggs, the average consumer is unaware of the scope of the egg industry in America.

Facts about the U.S. Egg Industry: (Source: United Egg Producers - UEP)
  • Iowa is the top-producing state for eggs, followed by Ohio
  • U.S.-egg production during March 2010 was 6.71 billion table eggs
  • Flock size for April 1, 2010 was 283 million layers
  • Rate-of-lay per day on April 1, 2010 averaged 74.8 eggs per 100 layers, up 1 percent from last year
  • 2009 exports of processed-egg products set records in both volume and value
There has been a lot of controversy the last few years regarding cage-free versus caged chickens for egg production, which consumes much of the industry’s efforts.

To address consumers concerns regarding animal welfare, the UEP created a set of guidelines for producers to follow. These guidelines were based on recommendations from an independent scientific-advisory committee commissioned in 1999 to review the treatment of egg-producing hens. The guidelines place top priority on the comfort, health and safety of the chickens and include:
  • Increased cage space per hen, which is being phased in to avoid market disruptions
  • Standards for non-feed withdrawal molting procedures based from the most current, verified scientific studies
  • Standards for trimming of chicks’ beaks, when necessary, to avoid pecking and cannibalism
  • Maintaining constant supply of fresh feed, water and air ventilation throughout the chicken house and monitoring for ammonia
  • Standards for daily inspection of each bird as well as proper handling and transportation
  • Availability of a new training video to instruct producer staffs about the proper handling of chickens to avoid injury to the animals
According to Chad Gregory from UEP, Americans prefer “regular” eggs produced in modern, sanitary caged systems by a margin (based upon their buying-decisions) of 95 percent.

“Modern sanitary cages also help U.S. egg farmers provide low-cost, nutritious eggs to American consumers at an annual savings of $2.6 billion versus non-cage systems,” said Gregory.

A video featuring Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs explains a little more about this debate:

Along with the egg industry there is also another American-food favorite - beef.

As the weather starts getting warm, more and more consumers are firing-up their grills for some outdoor cooking. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) celebrates beef all month long, however the beef industry has been under the gun lately with media reporting about increased meat prices.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), beef prices have increased 22 percent this year and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is predicting a 4-to-12 percent increase in the cost of wholesale meat.

In a recent article by the Kansas City Star, there are numerous reasons for the price increases, starting with the main reason - price of oil and the booming ethanol business. This article claims that several Midwestern corn farmers converted their crops to supply the nascent industry.

According to data from the USDA, ethanol refiners are using more of the corn harvest than ever. About 33 percent of last year’s crop will be used for fuel, increased from 23 percent in 2008.

"Ethanol-induced prices in meat are just now getting to the marketplace," said Steve Meyer, the president of Paragon Economics, a meat industry consultant in Des Moines.

Corn and ethanol producers say their industry is unfairly blamed for the record meat costs of 2008. The surge reflected "wild speculation in the markets and the surge of index funds" rather than the jump in corn use for fuel, said Chris Thorne, a spokesman for Growth Energy, a Washington-based ethanol trade group.

Still others argue that increased meat costs are the result of several related issues such as oil prices, global demand and weather, as well as product marketing and labor expenses.

Various corn-related agriculture groups state that there has never been a shortage of corn. There actually is a surplus of corn for all market sectors. According to the USDA, corn farmers produced 13 billion bushels of corn last year - making it a record year.

Yet, despite this meat price issue, people are still buying beef.

Americans understand and know that beef is leaner and healthier today. According to the NCBA, “Lean beef is one of the most flavorful and efficient ways to meet the daily value for 10 essential nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins, and beef also provides 20 grams of protein per serving.”

NCBA provides a helpful slideshow that presents the process of beef from production to pasture to plate:

Like the egg industry, beef is one of our country’s most valuable industries.

Beef Industry Facts (Source: NCBA):
  • Beef-cattle production represents the largest single segment of American agriculture
  • In 2008, the production of meat animals was responsible for more than $66 billion in added value to the U.S. economy, as measured by contribution to the national output
  • Total U.S. beef exports were valued at nearly $3.62 billion in 2008
  • In 2008, 26.6 billion pounds of beef were produced
  • In 2007, more than 97 percent of beef cattle farms and ranches in the U.S. were family farms
What are your thoughts about cage-free versus caged chickens for egg production? Why do you think meat prices have gone up this year?

*Photos obtained from: and

No comments: