A rising star in the U.S. agricultural exports success story is none other than the simple, nutritious egg. 

Traditionally, U.S. egg producers have only exported a modest percentage of their output. But that trend is changing rapidly as the global appetite for U.S. grows and American egg farmers seek to expand their markets.

In 2016, total U.S. egg exports (including table eggs and egg products) were valued at roughly $202 million, and projected to grow by about 21 percent in 2017.  Exports in 2018 are predicted to grow about 20 percent with the largest increases occurring in South Korea and Japan, countries we traditionally think of as selling goods to the U.S. 

The future looks even more promising. In fact, currently 27 countries consume 250 or more eggs per person annually, including Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. Countries in the Middle East and the Caribbean also show a fast-growing appetite for eggs.

Why U.S. eggs? U.S. eggs and egg products are subject to the highest standards of safety and quality and are monitored by multiple U.S. government agencies. In the case of U.S. table eggs, they are washed, sanitized, packaged and shipped within hours of laying. Similarly, U.S. egg products are pasteurized and refrigerated across their supply chain ensuring they maintain their quality and safety throughout their shell life. Consumers in other countries are increasingly discovering a safe, nutritious, and versatile food and ingredient. 

U.S. eggs also have passionate promoters. Two years ago, the American Egg Board (AEB), the generic marketing arm for the U.S. egg industry, and the USA Poultry & Egg Council (USAPEEC), its export marketing partner, joined forces and devised a proactive and strategic market development program to help U.S. egg producers export their eggs. 

Since identifying egg exports as a strategic priority, the American Egg Board has been especially busy reaching out to foreign markets. For starters, we identified key geographic areas including Hong Kong, South Korea, Mexico, Japan, the Caribbean and the Middle East for export efforts. Next, we were part of egg trade missions as well as a reverse trade mission involving the countries of Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean.  

South Korea was key, entailing our supplying the majority of their needs during a Lunar Holiday. We also traveled to South Korea to meet with bakery companies and conducted in-country egg product demonstrations.  At the same time, we invited Korean experts to visit our U.S. egg farms. Shell egg and egg product imports have drastically risen by an average of 4,000% in volume since 2016. 

As to the Middle East, we support and have expanded our participation in Dubai’s Gulfoods Show, the largest food trade event in the world. We finished off 2017 strong, with a master chef egg demonstration in Mexico City as well as hosting an Egg Export Seminar at AEB’s Chicago headquarters where U.S. egg farmers were able to dive deeper in to learning how to drive even greater egg export demand. 

These activities helped drive strong growth of egg exports to the world in 2017.  For egg products, January through November 2017 figures show more than a 62 percent increase in volume and 54 percent increase in value compared to the previous year.  Meanwhile, table eggs were up 1.5 percent in volume and close to 2 percent in value.

Recently, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that “Agriculture’s trade surplus is expected to grow eight percent, from $21.3 billion last year to $23 billion in 2018.” Agriculture remains an important pillar of rural America, directly providing 43,000 jobs and supporting hundreds of thousands more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median income for these positions is $62,920 — a considerable amount where the cost of living is modest.

Through 2018 and beyond, the AEB will be doing all it can to continue its contribution to U.S. economic growth and to expanding agricultural exports … one egg at a time.   

About the author: Anne L. Alonzo is President and CEO of the American Egg Board.