If you’ve wandered the aisles of your grocery story lately, you’ve probably noticed plenty of price hikes. But one in particular stands out: eggs. Eggs used to be an affordable, high-protein staple, with a dozen large, Grade A eggs only costing $1.79 on average in 2021. But as of last December, they cost $4.25 — a 138% year-over-year increase.
Eggs have faced more than their fair share of inflationary pressures. In addition to the pandemic, supply chain crisis, and Russo-Ukrainian War, the egg industry also dealt with a record outbreak of avian influenza in 2022. The bird flu reportedly killed almost 58 million birds across the country last year, including many egg-laying hens. This has restricted the supply of eggs, which naturally leads to an increase in price.
However, some in the industry believe there is more to the story.
Even in the context of the high inflation seen last year, this outrageous price increase seems out of place — so much so that industry insiders have accused major egg suppliers of colluding to gouge prices. They’ve gone so far as to issue a letter to the Federal Trade Commission.
In a letter to the FTC, insiders claimed that there is a “collusive scheme” to gouge egg prices, resulting in “egregious profits reaching as high as 40%.” The FTC has not yet commented on the letter.
For the record, the nation’s largest producer of eggs, Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) posted a 110% gain in net sales year-over-year in its last quarter of 2022, and an increase in quarterly gross profit margin of almost 40%.
Sunny Side Up
For consumers, the news is not all rotten.
For one thing, it appears as though egg prices have already peaked. The price for a dozen eggs currently sits at $3.40, down from a high of $5.46 in late December. Keep in mind that this is just a national average. The price you pay will still depend on where you live and shop.
Second, the FTC, now alerted to the potential of foul play, will be able to determine if there are any bad eggs in this all-important industry. If so, affordably-priced eggs will come back to the shelves even sooner, as chickens come home to roost.
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