What Is the American Egg Lobby and Why Was It So Troubled About Food Producer Hampton Creek?

People who are interested in food news may have read about the American Egg Board’s attempts to keep a product called Just Mayo off store shelves. That sandwich spread, a product from the startup Hampton Creek in San Francisco, is presented as an egg-free alternative to mayonnaise. The board apparently saw this substance as a threat to the egg industry and engaged in some questionable activity in response. What exactly is the American Egg Board, and why was it bothered by Just Mayo?

The board is a lobby group connected with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It has the responsibility of increasing consumer demand for eggs and to expand the egg market domestically and abroad. People familiar with the slogan “the incredible edible egg” have encountered marketing from the organization. When consumers get worried about eating too many eggs because of cholesterol, the board devises strategies to dispel those concerns. When people become troubled about factory farms and cruelty to chickens, the organization has more work cut out for it.

The group is supposed to promote egg buying and consumption in positive ways, not using methods intended to stamp out competitors. Attempting to block a company from selling food products by using taxpayer money is a violation of federal law. Regulations also prohibit the organization from making negative comments about non-egg commodities. The USDA wants to promote all farm foods, of course, and not just eggs. After information about the board’s tactics came to light in 2015, the chief executive officer sped up her retirement date, and the USDA began an investigation. The egg board sought to hire a new public relations firm to undo the damage.

This type of commotion tends to be intriguing to consumers in general. People commonly back the underdog, especially in skirmishes with government entities. If anything, the board’s underhanded methods to keep Just Mayo out of grocery stores led to increased consumer interest in trying the product. That would lead a fair number of those individuals to doing some research on Hampton Creek and responding positively to its mission, a prime component of which is to effectively replace eggs with plant-based foods.