Eggflation is just price gouging.
January 23, 2023 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Cal-Maine's stock is up 47% from a year ago. Cory Doctorow describes the origins of Eggflation.

giving control over our production to a single company doesn't just deprive us of the choice to take our business elsewhere. It's an invitation to dominant firms to squeeze all the slack out of their supply chains, stripping out all the safety margins, selling off plant and leasing it back, relocating to distant, low-tax jurisdictions.
posted by mecran01 (76 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it Cory Doctorow neologism week? Enshitification and now Eggflation?
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:07 PM on January 23 [22 favorites]


Most of our current inflation right now is price gouging. The rising prices are just becoming record-breaking profits in corporate bank accounts. Congress and other regulatory bodies have been quite lax in launching investigations into this. It's disgusting, and unbridled capitalism is going to ruin the world.
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on January 23 [52 favorites]


I just got back from the store and I think cigarettes are cheaper then eggs. Im doing co-op with some other restaurants to get us some city eggs, half the price. But only two I trust for quality control.
I want to be the eggman.

Cory, need an article on the rising price of cheese sticks and Palmolive.
posted by clavdivs at 2:31 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Cory Doctorow just keeps writin’ those internet lottery tickets.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:49 PM on January 23


I get my eggs from a local nonprofit that runs a historic farm.

The price has always been $7/dozen, which when I first started buying these eggs seemed a little spendy, but is now cheaper than many of the fancier offerings at the grocery store.
posted by box at 2:56 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


The article says a dozen eggs is averaging $2.88 -- If you're buying a pack of cigarettes cheaper than that, my wife needs to start getting her cigs there too.

Not trying to downplay the evils of corporate greed and 100% price increases, but with all the stories about the crazy prices of eggs I was expecting them to be like $15 a dozen or something.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:58 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


Is it Cory Doctorow neologism week? Enshitification and now Eggflation?

Don't forget "guillotineable"
posted by Countess Elena at 3:00 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I'm all for shattering monopolies but it seems weird to me to talk about eggflation without a single mention (at a skim) of the conditions that almost all egg-laying chickens are forced to endure.
posted by aniola at 3:08 PM on January 23 [21 favorites]


The price has always been $7/dozen, which when I first started buying these eggs seemed a little spendy, but is now cheaper than many of the fancier offerings at the grocery store.

Ditto, I no longer have the internal debate about buying the objectively-superior farmer's market eggs
posted by aspersioncast at 3:13 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


The article says a dozen eggs is averaging $2.88

That seems low to me. I was at a grocery store today that usually has good prices on eggs and it was like $6-7 a dozen. I don't quite remember, I just saw the price and walked on. I wasn't shopping for eggs anyway.
posted by hippybear at 3:15 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Avian flu isn't just a handy smokescreen,
Since the start of 2022, highly pathogenic avian influenza has led to the deaths of about 58 million birds. It is the deadliest outbreak of all time and the worst one since 2015, when 50 million birds were culled, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.

U.S. egg inventories were 29% lower in the final week of December 2022 than at the beginning of 2022, according to the USDA. More than 43 million egg-laying hens had died as a result of the malady by the end of December.
posted by twsf at 3:17 PM on January 23 [16 favorites]




The Costcos near me have been out of eggs every time I go for 2 moths now. Aldi used to have the cheapest ones for 1.88 now they are 4.50 (but plenty in stock) I think there is a real shortage of eggs out there. That doesn’t mean the egg producers who’ve avoided the flu aren’t making money hand over fist. Costco probably won’t negotiate with the suppliers the way other store do.

Local farmers market eggs have gone from $7 to $9. I am eating a lot less eggs than I used to give the price.
posted by CostcoCultist at 3:18 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Update: went to the grocery store, the cheap store brand eggs are $7.50 a dozen. Yeah, that's kind of crazy.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:26 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


with all the stories about the crazy prices of eggs I was expecting them to be like $15 a dozen or something.

They used to be like $1.29/dozen at my local store.
posted by hippybear at 3:28 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


My local grocery store limits egg purchases to two dozen. No question that producers (and grocers) are gouging and making obscene profits, but there does seem to be a shortage of some kind. Is the shortage due to the avian flu, to price or supply fixing, or a mix of causes? Unclear. But that shouldn't stop the federal government from investigating.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:36 PM on January 23


I just got back from a holiday in Bonaire (Dutch Caribbean), where the entire island has been chronically out of eggs for a few months now. There was a government-set retail price cap dating back to 2017 and the wholesale price went above that, meaning any grocer motivated enough to get eggs was selling them at a huge loss.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:38 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


A while back, I bought Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer, not out of veganism but out of laziness because I only use eggs to bake and didn't want to bother with expiration dates. It's about $5 for 30-odd "eggs," powdered psyllium husk and so on. I find it's a good substitute if you want a dense, moist baked good, which generally I do, but it doesn't work in cakes or cookies that are supposed to be leavened by eggs whipped into a froth, like angel food cake or the pfeffernuesse that were the worst thing I have created since I was a small child making plant potions in the yard. (Luckily no one else tried them.)
posted by Countess Elena at 3:57 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


I use my local grocery's online pickup liberally and never clean out my email so I have Receipts.

May 23rd, 2020: One dozen eggs were $1.15
March 31st, 2021: One dozen eggs were $1.75
April 27th, 2022: One dozen eggs were $3.29
January 21st, 2023: One dozen eggs were $4.89

All the same generic store brand, from a state that's on the higher end for egg production. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by brook horse at 4:03 PM on January 23 [26 favorites]


the cheap store brand eggs are $7.50 a dozen

We buy eggs by the dozen-and-a-half, and I used to just pick up the store brand. No idea exactly what they cost because it was just an item that was part of every week's shopping. Maybe $2.69-3? But now I have to look at the price-per-hundred on every package, because some weeks the jumbo free-range eggs are cheapest (but still like $38 per hundred) and some weeks it's the Land-o-Lakes large brown eggs, but somehow, since the Egg Crisis started, it's never been the store brand, which are consistently like $43-45 per hundred.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:09 PM on January 23


I can believe the avian flu story. I remember this summer my wife stopped filling our bird feeder as there was concern that feeders could be another way for it to spread. I can also believe that in addition to the bird shortage everyone along the way is also using it as an excuse to line their pockets.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:16 PM on January 23 [13 favorites]


Yeah, the apparent inability of some pundits pundifying on this issue to be able to hold more than one thought in their heads at the same time - avian flu has killed millions of birds, shipping and transport has been colossally fucked-up for a few years now, egg producers are raising prices beyond the increased cost to them of those problems, those companies are raking in more profit than ever before as consumers are forced to pay more than they need to pay - is either strikingly stupid or strikingly dishonest.

30/70, I'd say.
posted by mediareport at 4:24 PM on January 23 [13 favorites]


Last summer some free-range mixed farming egg producers I was visiting were really unhappy about the price of feed -- they were getting it from producers in state but over the mountains, and not only had various weather calamities reduced harvests, but the trucking costs were increasing like whoa. And *their* hens had bugs and harvest scraps to fill up on.
posted by clew at 4:45 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Shortage (avian flu) and higher prices go hand in hand, classic supply and demand. But profits should be stable, e.g., 2 eggs for $0.25 vs 1 for $0.50. So where are the excess profits from? Decoupling distribution and production. The distributors are making profits due to tighter supply. But they are not the producers. Egg farmers are, and they are tied to distributors by contracts. It's the farmers whose birds are dying, not the distributor's. The farmers get a fixed price for the eggs because that's what their contract says. The corporations have little downside, little risk, and that's who makes the profits.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:49 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


Is it Cory Doctorow neologism week? Enshitification and now Eggflation?


It’s all part of our ongoing indoctorownization.
posted by darkstar at 4:58 PM on January 23 [21 favorites]


In a rational world the reality of what we've all been through vis a vis the pandemic would have created a greater understanding of the enormity of the this latest avian flu. Instead folks are just losing their shit for the wrong reasons over this. Of course we won't regulate the profiteers in the supply chain, we'll just become numb to the inflation until we're stacking bills like they do in Venezuela. Welcome to 2023.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:59 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Interestingly last year it was rare to see 18s of eggs in Ontario. Now the store brands are even coming in those sizes.

It's psychological fuckery, in that seeing a dozen eggs for $3 is "high" but 18 eggs for $5 is "seems ok, maybe a good deal even," because we haven't any price comparison memory on how much 18s of eggs should cost. Even though the 18 pack is more expensive per egg.

Same thing they did for cheese bricks. $4 for 400g or NEW FAMILY SIZE just $7.50 but it's only 700g of cheese. Eat my entire ass, Galen Weston.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:00 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I was expecting worse from all the headlines, but paid only around $4.50 for a dozen of cage free eggs this weekend. The store brand (no claims about chicken conditions) were cheaper, and there were some outrageously expensive organic ones, too. So it was lower than I was expecting, but still higher than not long ago.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:13 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


because we haven't any price comparison memory on how much 18s of eggs should cost.

I don't remember if it was Costco or Sam's Club, but their "buy in bulk" packaging for name-brand products (e.g. Nature Valley Granola Bars, Propel water) I normally buy at other stores was like a 37 pack or a 55 pack or some weird odd number quantity so there's no easy way without a calculator to compare the per-unit price to the common 12 pack you get at other stores (my surprised face: the per-unit price was about the same)
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:23 PM on January 23


Huh, no mention of the other thing I saw over the summer as an excuse for rising egg prices - customer choice is simply forcing battery hens off the market. Everybody wants cage free, free range, wild-ass chicken eggs, and once the buying public got used to spending $2.50 for a dozen brown eggs from Eggland's Best, the market for cheap-as-dirt (and fairly amoral, to be fair) battery eggs dried right up. That probably links in to seanmpuckett's theory above, that it probably helped detach the price history from people's memories that way, too - you aren't getting a dozen battery eggs for $0.79 any more, but you're getting tenderly, gingerly, nay beloved chicken eggs for $2.79 instead. And now they're $4.50 to $5 per dozen.
posted by Kyol at 6:23 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


(to be fair, $0.79 per dozen at Aldis still sort of sticks in my mind as my unemployment food from 20 years ago, so I accept that it's fairly dated, sure.)
posted by Kyol at 6:24 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I suspect Vincent Price.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:25 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


$9 for the free range organic eggs at my local overpriced Brooklyn corner food store. I only buy free range/organic eggs but I ain't paying that much for them. The price has gone up.
You can get them for about $5- $7 at some of the other good quality food stores in this area. I don't know how much the factory farmed Styrofoam packaged ones are.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:49 PM on January 23


I used to be able to buy a 5-dozen carton of eggs for like $6. I can't even get a dozen at that price now.
posted by hippybear at 6:53 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Is it Cory Doctorow neologism week? Enshitification and now Eggflation?


It’s all part of our ongoing indoctorownization.


Doctorowed Livingstyle, I consume
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:53 PM on January 23 [20 favorites]


^^ this comment will go woefully under appreciated.
posted by hippybear at 6:57 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


the market for cheap-as-dirt (and fairly amoral, to be fair) battery eggs dried right up.

Amoral? Nah. They’re straight-up immoral.
posted by rhymedirective at 7:00 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Shortage (avian flu) and higher prices go hand in hand, classic supply and demand. But profits should be stable, e.g., 2 eggs for $0.25 vs 1 for $0.50.

I am not an economist. A lot would depend on exactly how the avian flu affected the cost functions of producers and other firms, but I'd expect this kind of supply reduction to act an awful lot like the supply reduction a monopolist would do. Sticking with low quantity because that's all you can supply, putting you way back toward the vertical axis where price is over marginal cost.

So huge profit doesn't surprise me. The flu is acting like a cartel enforcer.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:02 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Notably eggs sold in Colorado must be cage-free by 2025, so there may be incentive for producers to switch over after this flu has passed.
posted by Narrow Harbor at 7:03 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Data point: we buy locally from either our creamery or the farmers market. Our egg prices haven’t budged at all ($5/dozen) because none of these are the kind of huge industrial farms where some MBA has been toiling away trying to scrape every bit of inefficiency out of the system.

Also, the two we’ve visited treat their chickens humanely — you see them comfortable outside and there isn’t the reek which characterized the huge chicken farm outside of San Diego I made the mistake of biking downwind of a couple of times.
posted by adamsc at 7:09 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


He's not wrong that there has been egg price-gouging! But, yeah, the humane eggs from the greenmarket have certainly seemed more competitive in price lately.
posted by praemunire at 9:37 PM on January 23


Is it Cory Doctorow neologism week? Enshitification and now Eggflation?

Just wait - next week is Eggshitiflation!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:44 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Just listened to a podcast on the subject , interviewing Glenn Hickman, president of Hickman's Family Farms. Obviously this source is biased, but a few tidbits from the show:

- Many of the largest egg producers are family businesses, including Hillandale and Hickman. Cal-Maine is also family owned (publicly traded, but the family owns a controlling share)
- 2019 and 2020 were very lean years for egg producers, and many ended up selling, further consolidating
- avian bird flu is endemic in wild bird populations and annual migrations are basically superspreader events, with an r0 of like 10 in commercial flocks
- Federal law requires the euthanization of all chickens when a case of avian flu is detected, and generally reimburses for the cost of depopulation, cleaning, and flock replacement
- the market for eggs is so concentrated no exchange runs a futures market for eggs, closed in the 60s (though Wikipedia cites reduced seasonality of production)
- egg demand is cyclical, with high demand in December, and prices "limit down" in January (unclear who is setting any limit without a central exchange?)
- 1 bushel of corn = 1 fed chicken = "one person's worth of eggs"
- Hickman expects to replace his destroyed flock, but isn't planning on growing the flock above where it was, despite currently higher than average
- apparently they raise chickens in Arizona? and just import grain by rail
- chicken barns are expected to be a 30 year investment, so it'll take a while to convert to cage free without taking capital losses

So it seems like a market that could be ripe for collusion. All it would take is a couple of bad eggs...
posted by pwnguin at 10:58 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


They're expensive enough that I've been using alternatives for the first time. Bean canning liquid for mayo and anything that needs whipped egg whites, and chickpea flour (besam at the local Indian grocery) for fried or scrambled. Not 100%, but at these prices? Close enough!
posted by 1adam12 at 5:18 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I was just in an argument with someone who found it hard to believe that the price of eggs could impact someone's food budget. I pretty much kept repeating myself that it could, and possibly won by being louder and more persistent, but do people have good short arguments (possibly with numbers) that are more formally convincing?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:24 AM on January 24


I'm guessing that anyone who doesn't believe that increased prices hurt people on limited food budgets is probably someone who believes that the poors are wasting too much money on cable TV and booze and just need to make better choices. It's more of a political belief rather than logic-based, so I don't know how far you will get in that argument.

But in reality, many if not most people have a constrained food budget -- there's only so much left after paying for core necessities like rent/mortgage, transportation, etc. Living paycheck to paycheck is pretty normal, so there just isn't a lot of extra room in most people's budgets. If someone's food budget is say $100 and the price of eggs goes up by $2, that's $2 less of other foods that they can buy. So maybe you get the eggs, but then buy fewer apples, say.

That is why people will use a highly-sympathetic made-up example, like a sweet elderly widow on a fixed social security income. Her food budget is going to be limited unless social security increases benefits, and it's hard (but not impossible) for even a rabidly political person to say that the poor old lady is lazy or should be trying harder.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:43 AM on January 24 [7 favorites]


I think this is just a person who's always been financially comfortable, and just doesn't realize how low some people's food budgets are. He isn't necessarily making up examples.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:52 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


If someone's food budget is say $100 and the price of eggs goes up by $2, that's $2 less of other foods that they can buy. So maybe you get the eggs, but then buy fewer apples, say.

I think the argument would be that you would just buy and eat something other than eggs if the couple of dollars difference is enough to topple your whole food budget for a week.

(I get that that isn't always feasible for a wide variety of reasons, just going through the next couple of lines in a conversation I've had many times with many people!)
posted by Dysk at 7:04 AM on January 24


Everybody wants cage free, free range, wild-ass chicken eggs, and once the buying public got used to spending $2.50 for a dozen brown eggs from Eggland's Best, the market for cheap-as-dirt (and fairly amoral, to be fair) battery eggs dried right up. That probably links in to seanmpuckett's theory above, that it probably helped detach the price history from people's memories that way, too - you aren't getting a dozen battery eggs for $0.79 any more, but you're getting tenderly, gingerly, nay beloved chicken eggs for $2.79 instead. And now they're $4.50 to $5 per dozen.

[cries in $4.50 per dozen of cheap-as-dirt generic non-wild eggs]

I've totally seen this phenomenon, though. I am constantly hunting the shelves for the non-organic versions of produce, because I know that the "organic" label means shit and just a way to justify a markup that I can't afford. But it's getting harder and harder to find.
posted by brook horse at 7:26 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Eggs used to be an extremely cheap protein. Now they aren't. That person arguing either gets that or they don't.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:46 AM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Eggs used to be an extremely cheap protein. Now they aren't. That person arguing either gets that or they don't.

yes, but the factors that created that are (#1 factory farms), (#2 lack of avian flu), (#3 no covid effecting egg distribution and collection). Those are gone now, and the lack of factory farms is going to be ongoing, so the price is not going to fall back to the historic baseline. That's the price to pay for better-treated chickens.

Also, per the article itself, a decrease in number of chickens due to avian flu PLUS an increase in the number of eggs purchased (10% up in one year is a lot) equals higher prices.

Also, just like gas prices, yes there are some people whose budgets are seriously impacted by price increases on individual items - those people should be explicitly helped. But most people's gas and egg budgets are pretty low, probably like 5% for a household combined.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:57 AM on January 24


Also, eggs seem to have regional monopolies, as Cal-Maine actually only controls about 1/3 of the egg market, with #2 not too far behind combining to be ~55% of the market and the rest the other 45%. So nationally, egg competition looks pretty good on paper.

Something US monopoly law is pretty weak on - Cal-Maine probably doesn't really compete with the #2 provider at all.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:00 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


The Vegetables, I don't understand what that has to do with people's food budgets, if they rely on eggs. They will still be impacted, as you agree. Prices staying this way impact people. That is all I said, responding to Nancy Lebovitz.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:09 AM on January 24


I mean, it's one banana, Michael...

For me, as a single person, eggs aren't a huge part of my budget. But if I were feeding a family on my wage or less, as millions are, eggs would be a big element. Because they are cheaper than other animal proteins.

Here, eggs from battery hens have been almost completely eradicated years ago, so the price hike isn't as steep as in the US. But the prices are high enough that I will look for special offers, which also means I am no longer buying whatever eggs are the freshest at the supermarket.
posted by mumimor at 8:16 AM on January 24


Eggs cost an extra $3.75 per dozen since 2020 in my area. We go through two dozen a week because it's a cheap protein source that keeps for a while and requires little effort to prepare. An extra $30 a month may not sound like much, but poor households always have a long list of broken or depleted items they need to replace that they keep having to put off for months and months because other expenses come up. Many of them are under $30. I've needed to replace my electric kettle since it died in August and have not had the money to do so. My arch supports are shot, I need a second pair of shoes that fit, I'm running out of lotion that I'm not allergic to, my partner desperately needs a new pillow, our air filter is 5 months past its "replace by" date, I need to buy a new pill box because one of the lids has snapped off, etc... I don't have the money for any of those right now. When I manage to scrounge an extra handful of bucks, I will buy them. But an extra $30 a month for eggs (even ignoring all the other price increases) puts off those purchases even longer.
posted by brook horse at 8:23 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


The Vegetables, I don't understand what that has to do with people's food budgets, if they rely on eggs. They will still be impacted, as you agree. Prices staying this way impact people.

I'm basically saying it's getting more press than it deserves. Any price change 'impacts people', as the tech layoffs post proves. You didn't buy enough tech at high prices to keep all those people employed. That doesn't mean that all impacts are equal, and egg prices increasing is pretty low-impact comparatively.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:27 AM on January 24


I'm in the same boat as brook horse - different items need replacing/buying, but same song. Grocery prices are a huge downer. And guess what is something that elevates the poors mood, as an aside? Food you actually want to eat.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:29 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


It's not low impact, for those of us it impacts. I don't understand talking percentages when egg prices are affecting almost everyone I know.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:30 AM on January 24


and egg prices increasing is pretty low-impact comparatively.

Maybe if you take it as a single thing in isolation, the impact looks smaller. (Though as noted just above, a $30/month increase in a food budget is a lot for many, many people, and is going to force either to cut back on other items or to switch from eggs to some other low-cost protein, if there is one that is cheaper and meets their needs.) But it doesn't happen in isolation, this is just the most attention-grabbing of a long series of price increases (and corresponding attempts by companies to shrink the sizes of packages, which produces the same result).

So in aggregate, food budgets for a lot of people are really strained right now. The ending of supports like the national free lunch program is yet another pressure on those same families. To the extent that some portion of this price increase in eggs is from price gouging or lack of competition, that's especially bad.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:39 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


So in aggregate, food budgets for a lot of people are really strained right now. The ending of supports like the national free lunch program is yet another pressure on those same families.

Well I'm sorry but in aggregate, a lot of those same families voted for these policies, since we just had an election, or the effected ones didn't vote, for various reasons. Either that, or the number of people effected is smaller than the ones who don't want to help. People that need help buying groceries should be subsidized, but that's not the political climate we are in.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:46 AM on January 24


And again, among Cal-Maine's segment of the market, people bought 10% more eggs at higher prices than the last normal year. They aren't choosing different protein, they are buying more.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:48 AM on January 24


The_Vegetables, it's that your comments are coming off very much like "too bad" - while speaking directly to people impacted by this. I'm not sure what you think we're not getting or acknowledging.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:57 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Well I'm sorry but in aggregate, a lot of those same families voted for these policies, since we just had an election, or the effected ones didn't vote, for various reasons. Either that, or the number of people effected is smaller than the ones who don't want to help.

Wow, that sure is a take that completely ignores massive issues with gerrymandering and voter suppression.
posted by brook horse at 8:58 AM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Well I'm sorry but in aggregate, a lot of those same families voted for these policies, since we just had an election, or the effected ones didn't vote, for various reasons. Either that, or the number of people effected is smaller than the ones who don't want to help. People that need help buying groceries should be subsidized, but that's not the political climate we are in.

I feel like I might be misunderstanding your comment -- as written, the first sentence seems more like blaming poor people for (perhaps) having voted a certain way, and I am not tracking with the second sentence at all.

I agree that people who need help should be supported by a robust safety net; along with that, there needs to be aggressive regulation of industries to prevent and reverse anti-competitive and harmful actions.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:48 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I was just in an argument with someone who found it hard to believe that the price of eggs could impact someone's food budget. I pretty much kept repeating myself that it could, and possibly won by being louder and more persistent, but do people have good short arguments (possibly with numbers) that are more formally convincing?

Raw goods are an econ 101 example of an inferior good. The more money you earn, the less you buy. The reason is pretty simple: you buy more expensive, finished goods. Instead of flour and eggs you buy bread. You probably consume the same amount of eggs either way, but the price move impacts you less because the ratio of labor to raw materials is higher. Also, commercial bakeries can smooth out price variance by asking for an annual forward purchase -- "how much will it cost to buy 100,000 eggs a month for 12 months?" This is essentially a price risk transfer to the commercial egg producer, while your grocery store egg shopper has to buy at the spot price. So if you buy eggs in the form of bread and ice cream, you might not even have a price increase anywhere comparable to the warehouse price increases in December.

Substitutions are also a challenge. Obviously you can eat cereal instead of scrambled eggs for breakfast, but it's rather difficult to produce baked goods without eggs, so demand is considered relatively inelastic. A baker might go from 29 percent to 28 percent eggs, but not 0.
posted by pwnguin at 10:21 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I've totally seen this phenomenon, though. I am constantly hunting the shelves for the non-organic versions of produce, because I know that the "organic" label means shit and just a way to justify a markup that I can't afford. But it's getting harder and harder to find.

This isn't true for eggs, though. Organic free-range eggs are certified to have a much smaller flock size than non-organic free-range eggs.

Don't even get me started on "regular" eggs.
posted by rhymedirective at 10:25 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Interesting, I didn't know that!

Still can't afford them (and have not had trouble finding non-organic eggs yet knock on wood) and if I could I would put my money towards things like vegetables, but good to know the people in my life who prioritize cage-free eggs are not getting marketing scammed.
posted by brook horse at 10:35 AM on January 24


I was just in an argument with someone who found it hard to believe that the price of eggs could impact someone's food budget. I pretty much kept repeating myself that it could, and possibly won by being louder and more persistent, but do people have good short arguments (possibly with numbers) that are more formally convincing?

I'd venture that at every income level people use easily prepared staple foods. What kinds of foods do I mean? Things like dry pasta, eggs, white bread, canned beans. You can make a nutritious and tasty meal around each of those (OK, I'd be hard-pressed to turn white bread into a good dinner, but it can be a sandwich), ranging from real simple uses to pretty fancy dishes based on those staples. Eggs are an animal protein which is flexible, keeps well, and can be easily prepared a number of ways. There aren't a lot of easy things to substitute seamlessly into a household where a fried egg or noodles scrambled up with eggs and cheese are used as a quick protein-rich breakfast or a dinner when there's nothing promising in the fridge (I've done both). Needless to say, the "quick-and-easy" uses of these foodstuffs make them even more appealing to those lacking both money and leisure time. That is to say: there are a good number of poor people who eat a lot of eggs, because they're about the simplest element of a larder that's not a prepared food or pure carbs (and a lot of folks strive not to live on prepackaged food). If you want animal protein, and you don't want prepackaged food, and you don't have a lot of time, you're using eggs to make it happen. A change in the price of eggs impacts those folks profoundly, and there's no quick fix for them. They can't just eat fewer eggs, because eggs form the foundation of their kitchen. Yes, eggs aren't necessary, but the purposes people buy eggs for are pretty inelastic, even among those who can't afford this price hike.
posted by jackbishop at 10:49 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


It's hard to be sure, but I think the issue isn't so much thinking "why are eggs so important?" it's more a matter of not understanding that there are people close enough to the edge that $10 or $20 a week is a big deal.

Also, from personal experience (though not with poverty) I run on fat to a large extent. I've tried having (non-sugared) cereal and milk for breakfast. So simple! So normal! So economical! It doesn't leave me in as good shape as eggs or cheese.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:51 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Egg prices have definitely impacted our budget and menu choices. We live on an island, with no national or regional chains; there are four independent grocery stores, anything else is a long drive or boat away. Groceries are always more expensive than they are on the mainland, and supply chain pain always gets amplified; gas is still $4.50-5.00 a gallon, for example. The higher cost of groceries was mostly an annoyance until I got laid off before Christmas, and our income fell 75%. We slashed our spending, and pretty quickly got onto a “rice, beans, and homemade bread” meal plan. We’re vegetarians, and eggs are a big source of protein for us. We’re making ends meet, but our eggs have gone from $3 per dozen to $9, and that hurts for sure.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 4:29 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I am seeing mixed situations with eggs here in the SF Bay Area. Trader Joe's is sold out of eggs every day by noon or 1 pm, according to staffers, but always has more the next day, and prices are up only a little bit from a year ago, at $3-5/dozen. At Whole Foods, there are always eggs available, priced from $4 to 7/dozen (basic to organic).
posted by twsf at 4:36 PM on January 24


A point of anecdata: My DIL works for a small facility that makes custom feeds for egg producers, and she says the flu hasn’t affected their orders or output. They’re still shipping feed at their normal volume. *shrugs*
posted by Thorzdad at 5:30 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


do people have good short arguments (possibly with numbers) that are more formally convincing?

I just have the emotional reality of how food budgets work for me but here goes.

I had (artificial; we weren't that poor) food insecurity as a child. I do the food budgeting, shopping, and preparation for my family.

I think of food as our family's internal class marker. We might be judged on our cars etc., but the thing that is really in our face all the time is whether we can afford the fancy cheese and the nice coffee and the produce from the local organic producer or local honey or whatever, or not. This is not something that we always have been able to afford and I know we can do rice and beans (and do anyway.) I'm aware of my privilege.

But every time we find those boundaries shrinking, it makes me feel a bit nervous. This is not a rational thing. But it is an every day or an every week thing.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:03 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]


What? Where can I buy a dozen eggs for $2.88? If I saw that I'd be engaging in egg arbitrage all over NYC!
posted by AnneK at 4:14 PM on January 26


I am very lucky that I noticed this change but it's not really hurting us. 15 years ago that wouldn't have been the case at all - when I was younger, eggs were sometimes all of the quality protein I'd get in a day, either on their own or cooked / baked into other things, depending on what kind of contract I was on and how many hours were actually available that week.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:08 PM on January 29


I went to the grocery store yesterday, and the same eggs that were $4.xx last week were $7.xx this week. But, another brand was reduced from over $7 last week to $5.xx this week, which is the one I bought. Those are all the fancy cage free brown eggs; the eggs with no claims about chicken conditions were much cheaper and if our grocery budget was tighter that's what I would have bought.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:17 AM on January 30


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