Thanks to the outbreak of avian flu that has decimated the poultry industry in recent months, egg prices have taken flight.
Avian influenza, otherwise known as “bird flu,” has impacted more than 58 million birds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With inflation added to the mix, a dozen eggs are currently going for an all-time high of $4.25.
How then, does the Department of Defense, which budgets for the fiscal year in advance through the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, ensure that troops have access to select foods even in times of shortage or extreme cost?
Unlike other Defense Department budget line items, the Defense Logistics Agency operates through indefinite delivery and quantity contracts, which provide services during a fixed period. In the case of food, these contracts ensure indefinite subsistence items for customers in a specific geographic area until the contract’s expiration.
“Under the Defense Logistics Agency Prime Vendor program, there are no amounts allocated for specific food items like eggs,” Defense Logistics Agency public affairs officer Michelle McCaskill told Military Times.
“If an item’s price is determined to be unfair or unreasonable, it can be excluded from the ordering catalog. Some items are more critical than others based on the military services’ menu requirements.”
Ultimately, those granular item decisions boil down to installation dining facilities.
“The military services establish the demand for food and beverage items procured by DLA,” McCaskill said. “It is the responsibility of our contracting officers to determine that a price is fair and reasonable, analyzing many factors including market conditions.”
It’s rare, however, that an item is removed from the DLA dining catalog, especially an item as essential as eggs, which are not just used on their own but in recipes at dining facilities and mess halls around the world.
Dining Managers for each branch ultimately decide how to buy eggs within their respective budgets. Dining facilities may temporarily cut expensive items from their menus, but it comes down to the facilities to make that call.
“Eggs are a required breakfast item daily,” said Onyx Taylor-Catterson with the CASCOM Public Affairs Office. “Dining Facility managers have specific nutritional requirements (set by the Defense Food Program) to provide to our valued customers, and deviation from those standards require approval from the Installation Food Program. Manager decisions are driven by customer demands to establish the highest quality experience possible.”
Moreover, the Basic Daily Food Allowance provides some level of relief for installations needing to make ends meet.
“Recent increases in the Basic Daily Food Allowance provide greater buying power for the manager and [are] designed to support customers during seasonal trends — strawberries and watermelons — and periodic national price increases,” Taylor-Catterson noted.
In effect, there’s not expected to be any shortage of green eggs and ham for Uncle Sam.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.