Iowa lays most eggs

BY CORY PORTER | APRIL 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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It goes without saying Iowans love bacon. 

There are entire festivals across the state dedicated to the food.  There are bacon cookies, there is bacon beer, and there is even bacon lip balm. If it exists, bacon can be paired with it.

So it may come as a surprise that Iowa produces more eggs than any other state in the United States.

“In 2001, we reclaimed the title of No. 1,” said Randy Olson, the executive director for the Iowa Egg Council and Iowa Poultry Association.

Olson said the job of his office is to support egg farmers and chicken producers while educating the public and working to get policy initiatives passed through the Iowa Poultry Association.

“[There are] nearly 60 million layers in the state of Iowa, so that’s just about 20 laying hens for every person in our state,” he said.

In 2014, Iowa produced 16.5 billion eggs.

Dong Ahn, a professor of animal science at Iowa State University who specializes in poultry products and processing technology, said when he came to Iowa in 1994, there were only around 18 million egg-laying hens, but today that number has swelled to around 60 million.

He said overall egg consumption dropped nearly 45 percent from 1945 to the mid 1990s, but since then, consumption has steadily increased, and a lot of it comes from the various and novel ways in which eggs are used.

“When people are thinking about eggs, they are only thinking about shell eggs … but Iowa is also the largest egg-processing state in the U.S.,” he said.

Part of egg processing, Ahn said, was selling eggs not in a shell like one would find in the supermarket but instead breaking the eggs and selling the contents.

Amounting to nearly one-third of eggs sold, this method yields a wide variety of products, from dry eggs, which can be sold by the yolk, white, or a mixture, to selling the liquid to restaurants and institutions.

The increase of processed eggs over the past 50 years or so was about 250 percent, while the consumption of shell eggs were decreasing, Ahn said.

From the 60 million laying hens statewide down to around 100, Twyla Hein, a farmer at Earth Biscuit Farm just outside Tipton, started raising chickens and growing her own produce around five years ago after realizing the important connection between health and food.

“My dad had Alzheimer’s, and I’ve had cancer; I just started really paying attention that maybe it’s this nasty food we’re exposed to …” she said.

Hein got one and half acres from the farm she grew up on, so she and her wife could raise chickens and grow vegetables for themselves. Not long after, her colleagues started asking if they could purchase some eggs and produce from her.

“I started having more hens, selling eggs, [and] then people asked if they could buy produce from me, so I started growing more produce, and it just kind took off from people wanting to know their farmer,” she said.

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