Tesco is considering joining Lidl and Asda in egg rationing, as bird flu causes shortages on store shelves across the country.
While there is enough availability at the moment, sources at the chain said rationing would be considered if the situation worsened.
Shoppers who posted on social media reported that shelves were empty at Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores across the country.
For now, branches of Asda and Lidl limit customers to two boxes of eggs each, while other supermarkets supply eggs from other countries, including Italy.
The British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, said it was impossible to know how long the shortages would last or how bad they would become.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, added: “While avian flu has disrupted the supply of some batches of eggs, retailers are experts at managing supply chains and are working hard to minimize the impact on customers. Some stores have introduced temporary limits on the number of boxes customers can buy to ensure they are available for everyone. “.
The UK is battling its biggest ever bout of bird flu, with a highly contagious variant spreading. A very small amount of the virus causes serious illness in birds and is often fatal. Since early November, bird keepers have had to keep their animals in shelters and away from wildlife to limit the spread of the disease.
When there is a confirmed outbreak on a poultry or egg farm, all birds in the affected area are destroyed. This means there are fewer chickens and fewer eggs in the supply chain, with the egg supply being particularly affected right now.
Egg farmers have warned that shortages are likely to worsen. The British Association of Free-Range Egg Producers said: “Many of our members lose money on every egg laid, and our data shows that even those who make a small profit don’t see a long-term future.
“Fewer hens mean fewer eggs and we warned in March that eggs could be in short supply by Christmas. On top of that, bird flu has also led to laying hens being culled.”
They added that due to farmers leaving work and the effects of avian flu, 227,350 free-range birds, 24,000 organic birds and 447,000 caged birds have been lost since October 1 – more than 743,000 birds this season. In the 2021 season, 1.8 million chickens were lost.
Another major issue affecting egg supply is the price of farming. Feed and housing costs have skyrocketed but supermarkets are not keeping up with increases in payments to suppliers. This causes some egg farmers to leave the business.
Sources at the Waitrose supermarket chain sounded more optimistic about its egg supply than its competitors. While “monitoring the situation”, they do not expect shortages or rationing in the near future.