The fast-food world's breakfast battles are doing more than shaking up competition: they're scrambling egg-white prices.
As fast-food restaurants increasingly vie for a bigger slice of the breakfast market with healthy offerings, egg white sandwiches and wraps have become a low-calorie staple. As a result, egg white prices have been soaring, with the industry struggling to keep up with demand.
The entire egg industry has enjoyed a boost from the fast-food industry's breakfast obsession, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor reporting recently that wholesale prices for processed eggs leapt 56 cents from a year ago.
However, health-conscious diners have crowned the egg white the most valuable part of the egg. Liquid egg whites now cost more than whole eggs or yolks, with their cost increasing 80 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, dried whites now reportedly cost twice as much as they did a year ago.
Egg processors have been working more hours than ever to keep up with demand, but have struggled to access sufficient raw materials. According to the USDA, dried egg white inventory is down 46 percent in the last year.
Today, the egg white breakfast sandwich is almost as ubiquitous on the fast-food menu as a burger. McDonald's has the Egg White Delight, Starbucks has the Spinach and Feta breakfast wrap, Subway has the Egg White and Cheese Flatbread. Breakfast newcomer Taco Bell and classics-focused Burger King have yet to reveal any yolk-less offerings, but that may change soon.
Buzzwords linked to healthy eating pop up on every restaurant's menu. While recent studies have shown that eggs play only a small role in cholesterol levels, egg white sandwiches have gained the reputation as the healthier option in fast-food chains. With chains from McDonald's to Chick-fil-A competing for customers by adjusting menus to at least appear to be healthy, the egg white menu takeover has only just begun.