Egg prices are skyrocketing. While the cost of groceries has generally risen, the price of eggs has tripled in the US since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Things have heated up even further recently, with the price of a dozen eggs now costing around $4.25, compared to $1.79 last year. The situation has become so severe that there’s even now a black market being driven by egg-smugglers.
So, what’s the crack? The egg industry suggests there’s nothing nefarious about the price rise, arguing that the market is being put under pressure from wider economic factors. Most food prices are on the increase, they argue, and eggs are simply a victim of this.
“Current egg prices reflect many factors, most of which are outside the control of an egg farmer,” said Emily Metz, president and CEO of the American Egg Board trade group, according to Associated Press.
Along with rising prices for animal feed and transport, which will impact many items on supermarket shelves, the US and other parts of the world endured the deadliest outbreak of bird flu in history last year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 58 million birds died across 47 states either directly from the virus or through culling to control the outbreak.
Economic factors and bird flu will be putting a strain on egg prices, but some are arguing that the unprecedented price surge is being driven by industry profiteering and price-gouging. They accuse the industry of exploiting the crisis and essentially using it to jack up the price.
In a letter to the head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the advocacy group Farm Action has asked for an investigation into the egg price surge. They accuse industry leaders of using “inflationary conditions and an avian flu outbreak” as an opportunity to “extract egregious profits.”
US Senator Jack Reed has issued a similar letter asking the FTC to investigate “potential price gouging and other deceptive practices by the country’s largest egg companies.”
Reed suggests something fishy is going on with the price rise of eggs. He notes that the problem only seems to lie with large producers of eggs, while small producers are managing to keep their prices relatively low. This is an oddity, he writes, that needs to be investigated.
“At a time when food prices are high and many Americans are struggling to afford their groceries, we must examine the industry’s role in perpetuating high prices and hold those responsible accountable for their actions,” Reed’s letter reads.
“It is also worth noting that small producers, which have faced many of the same market challenges as the biggest producers, have managed to keep prices under control,” it notes.