Around 2 mln Swiss hens were busy up to and during Easter as consumers bought eggs to celebrate the holidays in the traditional way. Now, the appetite for eggs has returned to normal and demand has dwindled, resulting in a surplus.
The problem is partially solved with the slaughtering of more hens now than is normal, reports swissinfo.ch. Additionally, the government has also lent a hand by contributing SFr2 mln ($1.87 mln) to help bring the market back on track.
“A quarter of the money is used for the lowering of prices within a limited time, and the other 3-quarters is used for eggs that go into the [food] production process,” Oswald Burch MD of the GalloSuisse producers’ association said. So, many eggs are destined for the production of pasta, biscuits or other baking products.
However, reports continue in saying that Swiss egg producers face the problem that the government is cutting the subsidy and that they'll find it difficult to sell their eggs for production purposes; most eggs used by the food industry are imported.
Burch and Hannes Messer, Director of egg wholesalers EiCO, feel there is potential for Swiss production eggs. “But we can only produce more when the [food] industry recognises [the value] of Swiss eggs,” Messer explained to the Swiss farmers’ information service.
Burch at GalloSuisse knows exactly where the problem lies. “The potential is rather big but it is a bit difficult to get people in the production business to use Swiss eggs. They can import eggs which are less expensive… the industry tends to keep costs as low as possible and prefer imported eggs to Swiss eggs… That is a key problem. If we could succeed to get a foothold in this segment, it would help a great deal.”
Industry also wants eggs that are available all year round, rather than for a limited period, for example around Easter.
Egg dealer Othmar Hungerbühler says that Swiss eggs will never be competitive when compared with the cheaper foreign competition. However, he has come up with a solution that may help to ease the problem. That would entail Swiss producers increasing the availability of their hens’ eggs for industry by allowing their birds to live longer.
On average, a Swiss hen lays an egg once a day for 12 months or so. Extending its life for another 3 months would provide the eggs that could then go into food production.
There would be less profit for the producer because laying-hens slow down after 12 months, their egg shells tend to become thinner and the eggs themselves increase in size. But it may well be seen as a plus for those consumers who buy their eggs straight from the farm and appreciate larger sizes, reports state.
Burch also sees an ethical side to allowing hens to live longer before slaughter. “The egg-producing hens live for a year or so and then they are slaughtered because there are new hens to be put in the hen houses. That in itself is an ethical problem for a lot of people… So, if the hens live longer, they don’t have to be replaced as soon by younger hens. You could look at that and say it reduces the problem,” he said.