Why Eggs Are Getting More Expensive- And Why You Should Shop Locally As A Result

In the second half of last year, millions upon millions of eggs were suddenly removed from supermarket shelves all across Europe. Not only that, but poultry farms were shut down, and the press worked themselves up into a frenzy about the health risk this crisis posed to the general public. And while this scare happened months ago, the egg industry across Europe is still dealing with the fallout, and struggling to meet consumer demand while cleaning up the mess that they made for themselves. So what was behind this massive outbreak of panic? In essence, it was all down to one problem- the chickens laying the eggs had been contaminated by an insecticide.

The chemical in question, fipronil, is commonly used by vets to get rid of fleas, lice, ticks, and other parasites that can pose a health risk to animals. The problem is, since the chemical is intended to kill pests, it’s therefore highly toxic. As anyone with an interest in organic food will know, pesticides and insecticides often pose a health risk to the people who eat produce that’s been treated with them at some point. However, with fipronil, the evidence is completely concrete- all studies have shown that fipronil can cause serious damage to the liver, kidneys, and thyroid if consumed in large amounts over time. For that reason, it’s banned for use on any animals who are destined for human consumption. Obviously, though, that doesn’t always mean that it’s being kept out of the food chain, as these events go to show.

How much of a risk does this contamination pose?

You might think that, while it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want people eating chickens contaminated with this chemical, surely there can’t be that much of a risk in simply eating their eggs. However, you’d only be partly right in thinking this. While it’s true that a single egg from a contaminated chicken probably wouldn’t do you much harm, it’s more a case of what would happen to you if you ate a lot of these eggs over a long period of time. 

Fipronil is a dangerous chemical designed to kill living organisms, so it isn’t something that will just pass through your body without any ill effects. Those trace amounts of the chemical in each egg will build up over time, and once this total amount reaches a certain point, it could start doing serious damage to your body. What’s more, since children have a much lower tolerance of toxic chemicals than adults (because their bodies are smaller), they are much more at risk of getting sick if they eat a lot of these contaminated eggs. 

What makes the issue even more worrying is that even after months of investigation, the authorities still aren’t sure what exactly caused this contamination. Their best guess is that the illegal substance was somehow added to insecticides used legally in keeping chickens, to make those insecticides more effective. It just goes to show that although the industry is subject to tight regulations, sometimes companies try to work their way around those regulations in order to make more money for themselves. You might think that organic eggs are at less risk of being contaminated with such chemicals, but that’s not necessarily the case- “organic” often means only using chemicals that they can get away with, and the fact that the base insecticide was fully authorized for use in organic farming means that organic eggs could well be at risk, too.

So what does this mean for consumers like me?

Well, if you’re keen to stick to an organic diet, it may mean that you have a bit more trouble than usual finding eggs that fit with that diet. While the demand for organic and free-range eggs is higher than ever, the farming industry is still dealing with the after-effects of this big scandal. Multiple chicken farms have been shut down, and the disruption means that there simply aren’t as may organic eggs on the market as there were a couple of years ago. And what happens whenever there’s a shortage of something? You got it- the prices shoot up as demand outstrips supply. Sellers know that they can get a higher price for their eggs because buyers simply have no other choice, so you may well find that your grocery bill is higher than usual if you go through a lot of eggs at home.

Luckily for our loyal customers, though, The Pan’s Club isn’t affected by this problem. Most of the affected eggs came from Germany and the Netherlands, whereas at our restaurant, we like to keep things locally sourced wherever possible. Since we get all the eggs used in our delicious quiches and salads from a local organic provider, we can be certain that there’s not a trace of any toxic chemicals in any of the eggs that we serve up in our restaurant.

In the end, we should be thankful that this contamination was caught before anyone got seriously ill, and that hopefully the scare will lead to tighter controls over what chemicals find their way into our food supply. However, it also highlights the risks that people face when they buy food without having any clue where it comes from. By choosing locally sourced produce wherever possible (like we do at The Pan’s Club), you can stop things like this from affecting you and your health. What’s more, you’ll know you’re supporting local farmers and businesses, instead of handing your money over to mega-corporations who care more about their profits than they do about the health of their customers. It’s all the more reason to switch to an organic way of life!