Friday 27 January 2023

The Price Of Eggs Soaring 138% Is No Coincidence

 Eggs. They used to be one of the cheapest sources of protein out there (a couple of extra large eggs has 14 grams of protein, about the same as three ounces of hamburger).

But times they are a-changin’. The average price for large Grade A eggs was $4.25 a dozen in December. That’s a 138% increase from $1.79 a year earlier, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. By the way, a dozen eggs cost $1.33 in August 2020.

The narrative being peddled by the industry is that there is a historic outbreak of avian influenza that has killed tens of millions of egg-laying hens. Maybe. Chicken has gone up, too. A pound of chicken cost $2.96 in March 2020 and last month hit $4.34.

But here’s one weird thing: Have you noticed a scarcity of eggs or chicken at the grocery store? I sure haven’t: My local Wegmans is stacked to the rafters with eggs and chicken. Eggs are pricey — they top out at $7.78 — but they’re there.

So maybe something else is going on. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something else responsible for those soaring prices.

That’s what Farm Action, a farmer advocacy group, thinks. The 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 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%.”

And 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.

And the group 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.

And the group says “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.”

“In the end, what Cal-Maine Foods and the other large egg producers did last year — and seem to be intent on doing again this year — is extort billions of dollars from the pockets of ordinary Americans through what amounts to a tax on a staple we all need: eggs,” the letter said. “They did so without any legitimate business justification. They did so because there is no ‘reasonable substitute’ for a carton of eggs. They did so because they had power and weren’t afraid to use it.”

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