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WHY HAVE EGG PRICES GONE UP? Contractions and Corporations

Recently, I’ve been making my breakfast with chickpeas, and bread with bananas. As I grocery shop, I skip past an isle that used to hold an essential: eggs. When I do happen to cross by the cartons, I notice that a dozen eggs now land around the $6 range, when I could’ve sworn it was half that price not even a year ago. Eggs are a basic protein, ingredient, and essential to many families because of their accessibility and versatile use in kitchens across the country. According to feedingamerica.org, 34 million people in America are facing food insecurity. So we can imagine how hard this situation is impacting the average citizen. But what exactly is causing the shortage? 

Many farms are claiming that the lack of egg production is due to the outbreak of avian flu that began in late 2022. The wildly contagious and lethal strand has resulted in the deaths of roughly 58 million birds so far, many of which were egg-laying hens. This number has solidified the outbreak as one of record breaking proportions for the U.S.

Birds being tested for avian flu


However, upon looking at the number of hens that have been wiped out, many still speculate that the price increase to match seems to be more than necessary. This has lead to a belief that some companies are using the shortage to benefit themselves. This can be seen in the case of the Cal-Maine Foods company, which is one of the largest egg distributors within the U.S. Despite the devastation among farms, Cal-Maine has seen all time high earnings. This is a shocking contrast to many of the smaller farm businesses who’ve had to endure processes of great loss to deal with the illness. When a farm becomes infected with bird flu, farmers will often have to kill off entire flocks, and quarantine, which puts them out of business for an uncomfortable stretch of what could be a profitable time. So during this time it makes sense that a large company with an upper hand would seize the opportunity to create a monopoly. 

Enter Farm Action. Farm Action is a political non-profit organization that takes action against large food distributing corporations to stop monopolies from forming and harming small business farm workers. Farm Action, along with many others, have called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the ever inflating prices of mass egg distributors and determine the ethical implications. The main allegation has been that sources like Cal-Maine Foods are price gouging. This is when corporations take advantage of the climate in which necessities become rare commodities, and charge unreasonably high prices because they know that consumers have no other options.

Whether the root of the problem be the avian illness or the battle waged on small businesses, the consequence stands. Hopefully as time passes, repopulation can take place for farms to return to their feet, and for the eggs to return to our homes.

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