‘We’re going to hell’: Supermarket’s readymade fried eggs offend Spaniards

Spain's most popular supermarket Mercadona has shocked shoppers by selling pre-cooked fried eggs in plastic packaging, sparking a huge uproar among environmentalists and food lovers.

fried eggs mercadona spain
Food shoppers at Mercadona will have to shell out (pun intended) €1.80 for two readymade eggs that need to go in the microwave for 45 seconds. Photo: Mercadona

In a country where food is sacrosanct, gastronomic scandals that blow up on social media are not rare (we’re looking at you Jaime Oliver, and your chorizo paella).

Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona has written the latest chapter in Spain’s long list of food faux pas by selling two vacuum sealed fried eggs for €1.80.

That’s around the same price as buying a dozen uncooked eggs in Spain, but it’s not the price which has upset most Spaniards, rather the fact that something as simple and quick as cooking a couple of huevos in the frying pan is deemed too laborious and time consuming for some shoppers, according to Mercadona at least. 

The label on the packaging states “put in the microwave for 45 seconds”.

One tweet that has gone viral typifies the response of many Spaniards to this bizarre supermarket offering. “We are going to hell”, wrote Dr Elena Casado Pineda along with a photo of the packaged eggs.

Another user who posted a video of himself petrified under his bed covers, said “Mercadona selling fried eggs is the beginning of the end”’.

Several others have taken to TikTok to review Mercadona’s divisive eggs. “It tastes like an egg, even though one made at home is much better, obviously,” concluded one young influencer.

Eggs are after all a staple food product in the Spanish diet and essential for classic dishes such as the tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) and revueltos (scrambled eggs with other food mixed in).

Numerous Spanish media outlets have also covered ‘egg-gate’. La Sexta TV interviewed a nutritionist to get an expert opinion on Mercadona’s fried eggs and evaluate their pros and cons.

Others have highlighted the repulsion of a large part of the Spanish population, some stressing that Mercadona aren’t the first to engage in such lazy and wasteful food offerings as Carrefour sells pre-peeled and dissected tangerines.

In the case of public broadcaster RTVE, the focus was primarily on what it represented in terms of plastic waste and the country’s new laws to reduce it.

“An average person in Spain throws away 34 kilos of single-use plastic packaging a year,” Blanca Rubial of environmentalist group Amigos de la Tierra told RTVE.

Spain’s new plastic waste law will ban plastic packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables if they weigh under 1.5kg, something that won’t affect pre-cooked food such as the controversial eggs.

Others have also pointed out that for people with reduced mobility (of their hands in particular) as well as blind people, having access to pre-cooked eggs can be useful, although previous attempts to market these products to such groups haven’t proven very successful.

Mercadona has responded by saying that their packaged fried eggs are only being sold in some of its supermarkets during a trial period.

Food delivery services have increased by 80 percent in Spain over the last three years, and takeaways by 68 percent between 2019 and 2021, with the pandemic no doubt largely influencing this.

It’s a booming business and whether Spaniards would like to admit it or not, their increasingly frenetic rhythm of life means that having time to cook isn’t always their top priority, even though they are by and large food lovers and proud of their gastronomy.

That said, who can’t spare the three minutes it takes to fry an egg?


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Mediterranean diet: Why the Spanish are eating far less fish

Fish and seafood are one of the most important parts of the Mediterranean diet and Spain is known for its excellent offerings, but now consumption of these products has fallen by 20 percent.

Mediterranean diet: Why the Spanish are eating far less fish

Most Spanish regions have at least one traditional fish dish or seafood dish, even the ones that are not located along the coast. In fact, to follow a Mediterranean diet, it’s recommended to eat fish at least two or three times a week, however, the latest data shows that during the first two months of 2023, fish consumption fell by 20 percent.

Many believe that this is due to inflation and the historic rise in food prices in Spain, which has affected the entire weekly shop but has had one of the greatest impacts on the cost of fish.

Fish prices have risen 14 percent within the last year, meaning that families can no longer afford the types of meals they once ate, causing consumption of one of Spain’s much-loved products to decrease by a whopping 20 percent.

READ ALSO: Food prices in Spain rise 16 percent despite VAT cut

According to data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) published on March 14th, inflation has had the most pressure on the price of the weekly shop and food become more expensive by 16.6 percent in the last year. The Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) has estimated that this translates into an extra annual cost of €924.

Many families are now saying that cans of tuna are the only type of fish that they can afford and that it is now considered a luxury product for special occasions only.

READ ALSO – Cost of living: What are Spain’s best price comparison websites?

When the reduction in VAT on food was announced in December 2022, fish was excluded from the list. The 4 percent VAT for staple foods, such as bread, milk, flour, cheese, eggs, fruit, vegetables, legumes, potatoes and cereals, was abolished and the government also cut VAT on oil and pasta 10 to 5 percent for six months.

But now, merchants are asking that the government reduce the VAT on fish to 4 percent as well.

Meat consumption is another important part of the Spanish diet, which favourite dishes and tapas such as jamón, paella Valenciana and cocido.  

The consumption of fresh meat fell by 2.5 percent in the first month of the year, according to data presented by NielsenIQ at the 23rd Aecoc Congress of Meat Products.  

Many Spaniards are choosing to switch to frozen meat instead, saying that they can save around €3 to €4 by not buying it fresh.  

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and the Environment of Spain, Luis Planas, however, does not believe that the drop in the consumption of meat and fish is due to high prices.

According to him, it is due to a trend of consuming a more vegetarian diet instead. Planas claimed it was not necessary to lower VAT on meat and fish. The drop in meat and fish consumption is due to a “consumption trend” rather than the price factor he explained, referring to the annual report on food trends carried out by the ministry.