Iowa is the largest national egg producer, which usually means it’s fairly easy and affordable to come by tasty foods like omelets, egg salad and breakfast egg sandwiches.
But this summer a disease known as the avian flu hit poultry farms across the nation, but especially the Midwest and, worst of all, Iowa. The United States Department of Agriculture reported more than 31.7 million chickens and turkeys in Iowa alone were killed by the avian flu. Nationwide 48.7 million birds died.
Consequently, an egg shortage has hit grocery stores, household tables and Northwestern’s cafeteria.
Soon after the fall semester began, students began noticing fewer egg options in the Caf.
“Probably 95-percent of our comment cards so far this year have been [about] the egg shortages,” said Sodexo General Manager Ned Price. “So we put up signs and tried to explain.”
Not only does the egg shortage affect actual egg dishes, it also affects baked goods, main dish recipes, sauces and more. One of the Caf’s biggest challenges so far this semester has been keeping up a wide variety of recipes while working with a smaller than usual number of eggs.
Price said the first step was to figure out where eggs could most easily be eliminated and work from there.
“What we’ve done is map out where we use eggs in all of our areas,” Price said. “Salad bar, baking, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Then we had to come up with a plan for ways that can best help our situation. We started with the obvious — taking egg salad off the deli menu. Then we figured out how many we need to hold back for baking.”
Price said he does not want to eliminate eggs completely. Other colleges are having the same problem, and he has been in contact with many of them to see what solutions are working elsewhere.
Other schools have mostly been serving eggs either in smaller quantities or as part of combination dishes.
One such dish students have already been seeing at NW is the breakfast egg bowl where eggs are mixed with bacon, ham, cheese or veggies. This idea still gives students an egg option without having to use quite as many eggs as usual. On weekends, it is now much more likely that either omelets or self-serve scrambled eggs will be available, but not both.
“I know it’s not the popular decision with students.” Price said, “But with what we’ve got, it may just be in a different form than you’re used to.”
The problem is not only that eggs are more expensive than they used to be, but that sometime the Caf isn’t able to purchase eggs.
“This last week, out of the last four orders we’ve gotten, two had eggs and two didn’t,” Price said. “We’re just trying to think two to three weeks ahead and stay ahead of the game.”
The Caf staff plans to continue serving as many eggs as efficiently as possible. There may not be as many eggs, but they will still be around.
“When we get them, we serve them,” Price said.