Eggs have become a symbol of recent (and relentless) inflation — they rose an eye-popping 11.1% in November and are up a whopping 59.9% over the past 12 months, according to the consumer price index (CPI). And it seems like there will be fewer Easter eggs in 2023, as prices might not fall given that the shortage seems set to worsen.
A confluence of factors has affected the enormous price hike and the shortage, including inflation, avian bird flu and what at least one industry watchdog called a “collusive scheme” in the industry.
As Newsweek reported, in the U.S., more than 58 million birds in 47 states have been affected by the avian flu. And because of recurrent outbreaks, U.S. egg inventories were 29% lower in the last week of December 2022 than at the beginning of the year — and by the end of December, more than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost to the disease itself (or to depopulation) since the outbreak began in February 2022, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Beyond this, earlier this month — in response to record-high egg prices and just before testifying at an open meeting of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — Farm Action sent a letter urging the FTC “to promptly open an investigation into the egg industry, prosecute any violations of the antitrust laws it finds within, and ultimately, get the American people their money back,” according to a statement.
Farm Action said it was concerned “over apparent price gouging, price coordination, and other unfair or deceptive acts or practices by dominant producers of eggs.”
The letter noted that, “The real culprit behind this 138% hike in the price of a carton of eggs appears to be a collusive scheme among industry leaders to turn inflationary conditions and an avian flu outbreak into an opportunity to extract egregious profits reaching as high as 40%.”
As Easter is looming, it seems like there will still be a shortage. As Newsweek reported: “The bird flu, which usually hits during migration in spring only to once again disappear a few months down the line, did not come and go last year. It stayed, and it has given no signs of slowing.”
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How To Save Money on Eggs Despite Soaring Prices
There are a few ways one can save money on eggs, even if prices continue to soar at the supermarket. For one, it might pay off to visit your local farmer’s market. Not only will independent farmers or small farm operations likely offer you lower prices than the supermarket might at this point in time (especially if they are not buying into the alleged price fixing Farm Action is accusing the commercial producers of engaging in), but local eggs are typically of higher quality. Birds raised by independent farmers are also often treated to much better living conditions and high quality feed, making this perhaps a more ethical choice as well. During these times, small farms also often advertise eggs for sale on Facebook Marketplace or other such venues.
Of course, keeping an eye on sales flyers and coupons can also save you at the checkout, so be sure to snag up a few cartons of eggs whenever the price dips (or a new coupon shows up). Buying in bulk whenever possible is also a good idea, presuming you will either eat the eggs before they go bad (or freeze them).