It’s ova for frozen custard as egg scarcity spurs Rita’s summer switch to soft-serve

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     The South Street East Rita's location several days after temporarily discontinuing its classic frozen custard. (Jessica McDonald/WHYY)

    The South Street East Rita's location several days after temporarily discontinuing its classic frozen custard. (Jessica McDonald/WHYY)

    A nationwide egg shortage due to avian influenza has led Rita’s Water Ice to temporarily replace its classic frozen custard with egg-free soft-serve at locations across the country.

    Ron Kaufmann, the owner of the Rita’s stand on Spruce Street in Philadelphia, said the switch has gone well, and he doesn’t expect a decrease in sales.

    “Personally, I’m very happy with the ice cream product that we’re serving,” he said. “The customers have not really noticed.”

    Many patrons, he added, weren’t aware eggs were ever in the dessert. Without yolks, Kaufmann said, the ice cream is slightly thinner and melts faster, although it has the same percentage of milk fat.

    So, can anyone tell the difference?

    “Honestly, no,” said Carrie Smith, as she took a bite of her cherry ice and chocolate soft-serve gelati at the South Street East location. “It tastes really good, and really creamy still.”

    Her 13-year-old son, Connell, however, said he detected the change.

    “It tastes better,” he said. “More flavor blast.”

    Noting that its motto is “ice, custard and happiness,” Rita’s has said it will transition back to frozen custard as soon as egg supplies recover. Kaufmann expects that to take at least until the end of summer.

    Other local ice creameries won’t feel the impact of the egg shortage. Bassett’s uses eggs in just one flavor — French vanilla — and Little Baby’s Ice Cream and the Franklin Fountain both specialize in Philadelphia-style ice cream, which specifically lacks eggs.

    The avian influenza outbreak has now affected 48 million birds, but has not made it farther east than Indiana.

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