Fast-Food Breakfast Sandwich Wars Cause All-Out Egg White Shortage

By
Humpty Dumpty was set up. Photo: Shutterstock

The quest for high-protein and low-cholesterol breakfast has led to something of an ever-escalating albumin arms race, causing every major fast-food player from Subway to Dunkin' Donuts to Jack in the Box to 7-Eleven to add egg-white sandwiches to menu boards. The final straw seems to have been McDonald's, which last year put together some "freshly grilled egg whites" and "extra lean Canadian bacon" and christened the results "Egg White Delight," a sandwich that has now apparently scrambled raw ingredient supply systems so thoroughly that we're all facing an unprecedented shortage of egg whites.

Health-food obsessives were the first to go yolk-free, with their propensity for egg-white everything from omelettes to sandwiches, and avoidance of the supposedly (although disproved) cholesterol- and fat-heavy yolks. All that aside, everything just changed when McDonald's suddenly got with the program. "Analysts say the fragile egg supply chain has been under pressure as fast-food restaurants race to add low-cholesterol egg sandwiches to menu boards," the Financial Times reports.

Now there suddenly isn't enough product to go around. The cost of liquid egg whites soared 80 percent this past year, and meanwhile, the price of dried egg whites has been at its highest since 1979 as stocks hit all-time lows. Because the fast-food giants can leverage their corporate dimensions with broad purchasing power and fixed prices, the shortage is hitting small businesses the hardest: As Food Business News reports, the industrywide price shifts tend to hurt independent bakeries, which no longer can afford to keep egg whites in stock. Expect this to be a very bad season for meringues and chiffon pies.

The Egg-White Craze: It's No Yolk [Guardian]