As egg prices have continued to soar, so, too, have profits for America’s leading egg producer. And consumers, lawmakers, and advocacy groups are angry.
“They don’t want you to know that the real reason prices are skyrocketing is because of price gouging from top egg companies,” a Redditor recently wrote in a popular thread.
Consumer sentiment is similar on Twitter, where some are even calling for corporate boycotts in the face of record-high egg prices.
“I knew the increase in the price of eggs was price gouging. What would happen if we didn’t buy eggs for a couple days? Consumers have the power to refuse to be taken advantage of,” Olga Gonzalez tweeted at the end of January.
@motherboardvice Eggs aren’t so expensive right now because of avian flu: It’s all about profits. #eggs #foodprices #budgeting #groceryshopping #mealprep #food #egg #vice #news ♬ News / Truth Investigation / Investigation / Suspicion / Consideration(1013150) - A.TARUI
Many of the exasperated posts online have come after U.S. Sen. Jack Reed asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate claims of “potential price gouging and other deceptive practices” in a Jan. 24 letter.
“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 writes.
Cal-Maine, the country’s largest egg producer, argues that the ongoing avian flu outbreak and “increased input costs” are to blame for the 138% price hike that eggs saw between December 2021 and December 2022. Notably, grocery stores ultimately set a product’s final price, not the producer or wholesaler. But critics like Reed and the farmer-led advocacy group Farm Action say producers’ corporate greed is fueling the unprecedented egg price surge.
In a Jan. 19 letter to the FTC, Farm Action claims that while the avian flu outbreak led to a modest decrease in flock sizes (around 6%) in 2022, increased egg-laying rates made up for the loss of hens. In other words, “the industry's quarterly egg production experienced no substantial decline in 2022 compared to 2021.”
We all know that price gouging is the reason some goods, such as eggs, cost so much today. We can rely on American greed.— Phyllis for U.S. Congress (@PhyllisDHHall) January 28, 2023
Cal-Maine saw record results in its most recent quarter, including a 110% increase in net sales compared with the previous year. That translates to $198.6 million in quarterly profits, up from a mere $1.2 million a year before.
If an FTC investigation finds evidence of price gouging or collusion, the agency could force egg producers to return shoppers’ money in a restitution payment. In the meantime, consumers unwilling to put up with the prices are looking to egg alternatives. On Reddit’s r/Frugal subreddit, shoppers recently brainstormed substitutes such as Just Egg, chia seeds, flax seeds, and aquafaba.
Gallery: 7 Egg Alternatives To Save You Money