By DOUG GRAVES
DIAMOND, Ohio — According to inflation data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week, January egg prices rose 8.5 percent compared to the month before. In the year through January, egg prices soared 70.1 percent. A dozen eggs now costs more than a pound of ground beef.
On average, Americans eat roughly 300 eggs per year according to the UDSA. That average may plummet though as a highly contagious, deadly avian flu has wreaked havoc in the egg market, constraining the national egg supply. That, plus higher feed and transportation costs for producers, has raised prices.
Alex Ross of Moon Farm in Diamond, Ohio, is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for chicken eggs.
“There’s been nothing in my stand for the last three months, every egg that gets laid on this farm is pretty much sold before it’s been laid,” said Ross, who adds that four dollars a dozen is almost his break-even point.
However, what’s bad news for chicken egg producers has become news of prosperity for those with duck eggs. So now Ross has given his customers an alternative.
“During my delivery route I didn’t have enough chicken eggs because I was selling them so quickly,” Ross said. “So, I asked people if they’d like to switch for a dozen duck eggs or a couple dozen quail eggs. My customers took advantage of that. They tried something new and they really liked that.”
Chicken eggs and duck eggs look similar in appearance, though duck eggs are slightly bigger. There are other noticeable differences.
“Duck eggs taste like a chicken egg but a little bit better,” Ross said. “Duck eggs are a little higher in fat, but they have a very creamy, stronger egg flavor.”
Author and farmer Jesse Frost of Kentucky, says the market is wide open for duck eggs and it’s a perfect time for small-scale farmers to step in.
Frost offers several reasons why selling duck eggs makes sense. For starters, he says, duck eggs fetch a higher price.
“Partially because of the size, and partially because of the novelty,” Frost says. “Farmers can generally charge more for duck eggs than chicken eggs. I’ve seen them sold from $4 per dozen to $1 per egg.”
Frost points out that customers allergic to chicken eggs can often eat duck eggs and will seek them for this reason. And, he says, duck eggs are good for baking as the fat content of duck eggs makes baked goods richer, “and some bakers even say fluffier,” he says.
While the high price in eggs has driven many to become urban chicken enthusiasts, Frosts says there are benefits to having ducks on the grounds rather than chickens.
“I have a general rule that I don’t get animals that don’t benefit the garden (because that’s where our money is made) so we use our ducks to generate high-nitrogen compost that we then either run through our worm bins or through a regular composting method for plant food. At night, we keep our free-ranging ducks in a stationary coop with mulch beneath it. The mulch is regularly refreshed, and every month or so we pull all the manure-soaked mulch back and pit it up, then replace it. The resulting compost is very rich so you don’t need much, but the ducks will happily give you plenty for your garden or your pastures.”
When it comes to nutrition, duck eggs stay fresher longer due to their thicker shell. Duck eggs are richer, with more albumen, which makes cakes and other pastries fluffier. Duck eggs have more Omega-3 fatty acids. Finally, people who cannot eat chicken eggs due to allergies can often eat duck eggs.
Chicken Egg Facts (Large Egg, 50g):
• Calories: 71
• Total Fat: 5g
• Cholesterol: 211mg
• Sodium: 70mg
• Total Carbohydrate: 0g
• Protein: 6g
Duck Eggs Facts (70g)
• Calories: 130
• Total Fat: 10g
• Cholesterol: 619mg
• Sodium: 102mg
• Total Carbohydrate: 1g
• Protein: 9g