Sainsbury’s has sparked anger over its decision to start selling Italian eggs amid a reported shortage in UK supermarkets.
The supermarket giant announced this week that “supply challenges” meant it was buying imported eggs, supplied by Italy’s Atlante Ingredients and selling for £1.35 for a pack of six.
It comes after some supermarkets introduced rationing on boxes of eggs in an effort to combat supply issues.
Sainsbury’s has previously resorted to using imported eggs during the first COVID lockdown in May 2020, in in response to “exceptionally high” demand from customers.
The temporary move marks a departure from Sainsbury’s policy to stock only free-range eggs, which a spokeswoman told The Grocer was “to help maintain availability”.
However, British Free Range Egg Producers Association CEO Robert Gooch called on supermarkets to pay more to farmers to allow them to make a profit at a time of mounting production costs – or risk “exodus” from the industry.
He said: “Seeing Italian eggs on the shelves is a wake-up call to all retailers that they can’t expect farmers to work for nothing. Enough is enough.
Watch: How everyday food items have risen in price in the past 12 months
“I will be writing to Sainsbury’s today to ask for a meeting to discuss how we forge a more sustainable future for egg producers.
“Sainsbury’s has made strong commitments to British free-range egg producers in the past and I hope a positive dialogue can bring about change from what is a disappointing situation.”
Why is there an egg shortage?
Supply disruptions are reportedly being caused by rising costs and bird flu.
The UK facing its largest ever bout of bird flu, with a highly pathogenic variant circulating.
Since early November, birdkeepers have had to keep their animals housed and away from wildlife to reduce the spread.
When there is a confirmed outbreak on a poultry or egg farm, all the birds in the affected area are destroyed, meaning fewer eggs in the supply chain.
The outbreak is compounding existing shortages caused by producers cutting back on output or leaving the industry due to increased costs, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine driving up farmers’ energy bills along with the cost of chicken feed, hens and packaging.
Demand for eggs is also up as consumers seek out cheaper sources of protein to offset soaring food bills amid the cost of living crisis.
Which supermarkets have rationed eggs?
So far, two supermarket are rationing eggs amid the ongoing issues – Asda and Lidl.
Asda is limiting customers to two boxes of eggs each and Lidl is restricting customers in some stores to three boxes.
Waitrose said it had not introduced any limits but was “continuing to monitor customer demand”.
Other major retailers including Tesco, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Co-op said they continued to receive good supplies and were not limiting sales.