WASHINGTON, D.C. – Egg prices are up more than 130% from year ago levels, and a U.S. farm group is asking the Federal Trade Commission to look into the high prices of eggs and possible price gouging. Farm Action, a farmer-led advocacy organization that sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan to share their concerns over “apparent price gouging.”
Farm Action points out that Americans are paying more than ever for the important household staple. The USDA says a recent record outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza is the reason for the high prices. Gregory Archer, Texas A&M Poultry Science Extension specialist, says more than 50 million birds have been lost this year due to the disease, many of those being commercial laying flocks.
USDA says egg inventories were 29% lower the final week of December 2022 versus the beginning of 2022. The agency says 43 million egg-laying hens were impacted by the disease since the start of the outbreak in February 2022.
Like most other ag businesses, poultry producers are also faced with high feed costs and are paying more for fuel, including gas, diesel and natural gas, to transport eggs and run farms.
Ag Economist Jayson Lusk from Purdue University says there was a significant reduction in supply from depopulation this spring and again in the fall and winter. Lusk says the holiday baking season meant eggs were in high demand. That, along with less supply, sent egg prices higher.
USDA does expect wholesale egg prices to decline this year. Poultry producers will need to replace the lost layers, which will take some time. It takes a layer 20+ weeks to start laying eggs from the day they are hatched.
Farm Action wants answers on the price of eggs and says the nation’s top antitrust regulator must look into the record-high profits of the nation’s top egg company. Cal-Maine Foods controls 20 percent of the retail egg market and reported a quarterly sales increase of 110 percent.
Gross profits for Cal-Maine Foods are 600 percent higher than the same time last year. The company says avian flu is driving up prices. However, Cal-Maine had no positive flu tests on any of its farms.