The latest major food supplier to go up in flames, after decades of food suppliers not going up in flames, is New Zealand’s largest egg producer – after a blaze broke out on Monday, killing around 75,000 hens.
The fire at Zeagold farm had “taken the better part of the day to contain,” according to the company, adding that twelve workers on the site were “unharmed but very distressed.”
Prior to the fire, New Zealand farmers estimated that the country needed another 300,000 hens to deal with a national egg shortage, The Guardian reports.
The spokesperson added that while it was still too early to assess how much the fire would affect the supply chain, “There will be some impact obviously – it’s not a great thing to happen in the middle of a shortage.”
New Zealand has been in the grip of an egg shortage since the start of the year, when it put an end to battery farming. The ban had been in the works since 2012 and battery hen numbers had dropped over time to make up just 10% of overall egg production – but their final outlawing at the start of January has still been enough to jolt the egg supply chain, leaving supermarket shelves empty, shop owners policing tray purchases and big-breakfast lovers bereft.
The shortage has reached the point of contention: one small-town supermarket banned a cruise ship crew from further egg purchases after they cleared the shelves; newspapers have issued advice columns on egg-free baking and tofu scrambles; and in January, the SPCA released an advisory telling New Zealanders not to engage in kneejerk purchases of back yard poultry, after concerns that a rise in amateur chicken ownership would result in the animals not being properly cared for. –The Guardian
“Egg supplies are tight, so this will not assist in any way,” said Michael Brooks, executive director of the Egg Producers Federation.
The fire comes roughly one week after one of America’s top egg suppliers, Hillandale Farms, burned down, killing up to 100,000 chickens.