U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported eggs and poultry seizures increased by more than 108% at ports of entry at the southern border between October through December last year amid a spike in product prices in the United States.
Federal law prohibits uncooked eggs entering from Mexico into the U.S., which could result in penalties of up to $10,000 if travelers fail to declare such agriculture items, officials said.
“My advice is, don’t bring them over,” CBP Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Charles Payne told Border Report. “If you fail to declare them or try to smuggle them, you face civil penalties.”
Border officials announced the latest figures as the price for a dozen grade A large eggs hit approximately $4.25 in December, which totals about a 140% increase from the same month last year, the Daily Mail reported.
Amid the surge in dairy prices, Payne said egg seizures by CPB officers had become more common at the border in the past few months.
Payne further explained that the high fines are meant for undeclared agricultural items, whereas individuals face civil penalties closer to $300 for illegally transporting such products. However, if someone traveling with egg products tells CPB authorities upfront about such cargo, officers would only seize and destroy the eggs rather than issue a fine.
“The advantage of declaring it is, we will pick it up with no penalty issued,” Payne said. “If you fail to declare it or if you attempt to smuggle it, there’s going to be a penalty.”
Border Report further noted the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that prices for a dozen eggs increased from $3.50 to $5.30 last year as avian flu spread.
More than 43 million of the 58 million birds culled last year to get the avian flu under control were egg-laying hens, according to the Daily Mail.
Rodney Holcomb, an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University, told The Hill that the virus took out approximately 10% of laying hens in 2022.
“It was a perfectly bad storm – not a perfect storm, a perfectly bad storm – of high energy prices, high feed prices and avian flu,” Holcomb said. “It resulted in big price fluctuations we haven’t seen since the avian flu issue of 2015, and this was even worse.”
Emily Metz, CEO of the American Egg Board trade group, told the Daily Mail she believes the cost increases in labor and fuel in the past year were a more significant factor than bird flu, which impacted egg farmers.
“When you’re looking at fuel costs go up, and you’re looking at feed costs go up as much as 60%, labor costs, packaging costs – all of that … those are much much bigger factors than bird flu for sure,” Metz said.
USA Today reported that Colorado and California had seen eggless shelves at grocery stores while residents in Massachusetts and Arizona have started raising their own chickens.
Metz told the outlet the trade group has seen “some very, very temporary, isolated and hyperlocal shortages.”
“We have not seen widespread shortages,” Metz said. “We have not seen panic buying or anything like that.”
Egg prices likely won’t drop until the market stabilizes, Maro Ibarburu, associate scientist at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University, told USA Today.
“In the absence of new cases (of avian influenza), the production of eggs will gradually increase over the next several months, and that should help with the market,” Ibarburu said. “But the demand is also an important factor.”