Looks like Big Egg is going to send you to the cereal aisle. There’ve been warnings about egg prices going up for over a year. And the only thing more reliable than taxes is that if someone predicts a price increase, there’s a price increase – whether the reasons are real or fabricated. So as predicted, people are being choked out by the carton. The excuse given is last year’s avian flu outbreak. Supplies were cut so severely, egg farmers had to charge a claw and wing for the product. However, like most of the unnecessary price increases we’re subjected to, greedy egg producers used a scare to gouge consumers. Advocacy group Farm Action said production has not decreased as much as egg producers want us to believe, they’re just continuing to float that myth so they can keep prices high.
Nowhere is the ire over inflation more concentrated than in the price of a carton of eggs. According to the Bureau of Labor, a dozen eggs cost an average $4.25 last December compared to $1.78 a year ago. In some parts of the country, the average price is $9.73.
Most of the explanations thus far as to why eggs have increased in price assume the invisible hand of the market or blame “acts of god” like last year’s avian flu outbreak that took out 43 million birds. But in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan, the advocacy group Farm Action points out that the math behind those explanations doesn’t add up. Rather, Farm Action’s legal counsel Basel Musharbash alleges “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 percent.”
“Contrary to industry narratives, the increase in the price of eggs has not been an ‘Act of God’—it has been simple profiteering,” the letter notes, adding that the industry’s profit margins have risen to “unprecedented” levels alongside egg price increases.
The story, according to the organization, is not one of egg prices going up because of a crisis, but one we’ve seen over and over again over the last year: Prices are increasing under the guise of uncontrollable “inflation” simply because companies can make more money if they raise prices. The trend applies to everything from breakfast cereal to rent.
The egg industry has previously come under scrutiny for such behavior: a group of egg buyers accused egg producers of engaging in anti-competitive behavior between 2004-2008, including slaughtering chickens to artificially induce scarcity.
“The real culprit behind this 138 percent 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 percent,” Farm Action wrote.
Avian flu outbreaks were discovered in February 2022 in Delaware and spread to 10 states. The worst impacts of the avian flu were over by that spring, but prices kept increasing. According to Farm Action, “No hen losses were reported after the beginning of June except due to sporadic outbreaks in September, October, and November.” The result was that the average flock size for egg-laying hens in any month in 2022 was “never more than 7-8 percent lower than it was a year prior—and in all but two months was never more than 6 percent lower.”
The USDA noted in May 2022 that price increases in eggs were larger than the decrease in production. The USDA believed that the industry would attempt to ramp up egg production to make up for losses, but by December noted that the industry was keeping production pared back, saying that “producers—despite the record-high wholesale prices—are taking a cautious approach to expanding production in the near-term.”
Those bastards! They’re out here killing chickens so they can charge more for the eggs they stole from them?! This whole article is infuriating. Sadly, I believe all of it. Any excuse to stick it to the consumer. The big bad guys here are a conglomerate called Cal-Maine. I’m sure they’re the ringleader with several other large producers in on the racket, but Cal-Maine seems to be Farm Action’s target. The article also said Cal-Maine was trying to use fuel and feed cost increases as further excuses for the price jump. But the company listed a 40% increase in gross profit margins last year. So the real truth is: they’re just awful.
Between this and the recent news out of Iowa about SNAP restrictions, I’m seeing red. We can’t sleep on the crimes being done to those who need food and medication assistance.
And I made the joke above about sending you to the cereal aisle, but as you read, you can’t go there. They’ve been fleecing us for years.
With egg prices more than doubling in the past year, calls are coming for an investigation into possible price gouging.
The spike in egg prices has been attributed to the millions of chickens that were slaughtered to limit the spread of bird flu. https://t.co/GnkCmpH78M
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 25, 2023
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