The cost of a dozen eggs has now surpassed the price of a pound of beef, marking the first time that’s happened since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping data in 1980.
The average price of a dozen large Grade A eggs ran at $4.82 in January 2023, while a pound of ground beef was $4.64. In January 2022, eggs were $1.93, and beef was $4.77, but egg prices have soared by 70% in the last year alone.
Farm Action, a farmer-led advocacy group, says the “real culprit” behind sky-high prices is a “collusive scheme” among top U.S. egg producers to fix prices to gouge consumers.
In a January letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Farm Action said the alleged collusion has helped egg producers to “extract egregious profits reaching as high as 40%.”
The letter said avian flu is not to blame. “Examining publicly-available financial data from the egg industry, the letter determines that the supply disruption caused by the avian flu outbreak had an ‘apparently mild impact on the industry,’” the group said in a press release.
The group also said egg producers are making money hand over fist. “For the 26-week period ending on November 26, 2022, Cal-Maine reported a ten-fold year-over-year increase in gross profits — from $50.392 million to $535.339 million — and a five-fold increase in its gross margins,” the letter said.
But Dave Juday, an agriculture economist with the Juday Group, said there is a slew of reasons for rising prices.
“The reason for egg price inflation is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI),” he told The Daily Wire. “To date, about 5.76 million birds have been depopulated due to HPAI and 43.78 million have been commercial layers. As a result, 2022 egg production was down about 363.6 million dozen from the 2019/2020 average.”
The dearth of eggs led to higher costs, “passed on at a higher proportion to other [corporate] food processors/manufacturers more than retail consumers. … Markets – especially commodities – are priced on the margin. That is why a 30 percent production change can drive a 60% change in price,” Juday said.
He also said Farm Action’s comments that CalMaine and others “extorted margins” doesn’t make sense because it “ignores the way markets work.”
“For those who believe in market economics, the price the buyer is willing to pay for the amount of a product that is supplied is the classic text book definition of ‘demand.’ An analogy, it would be refreshing to learn that Farm Action turns down marginal additional donations because it is already publicizing and lobbying its issues on the budget it already has and because the ‘demand’ from donors for more such work is irrelevant to their production of that work.”
The high cost of eggs has led to a spike in plant-based egg alternatives. Eat Just, which develops and markets the brand JUST Egg, saw a 10% increase in U.S. household penetration for its egg alternatives in January, chief revenue officer Matt Riley told Fox News.
“We achieved 2.1 million, our highest household number since we’ve launched nearly four years ago,” he said.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.