Eggs used to be a relatively cheap standby, but not anymore. How expensive are eggs right now? Here are three crazy things that’ll show you how pricy eggs have gotten these days.
- First, eggs are so highly in demand that border officials are actually seeing a spike in egg smuggling from Mexico. Egg smuggling! Who’d have thought?
- Second, social media is suddenly full of humorous memes about the egg price crisis. You may as well laugh so you won’t cry.
- Third, egg companies are being accused of price gouging. Activists are demanding a federal investigation into egg producers’ record-high profits.
What’s the deal with eggs? Why all the excitement about eggs?
All this fuss is because egg prices have skyrocketed a mind-blowing 60% in only a year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Out of all the price increases you’re seeing at your local grocery store, the price of eggs has gone up the most.
We’ve got a couple of ideas for what you can do about that. We’ve got advice about cheaper baking substitutions if a recipe is asking for eggs. Or, if you’re thinking bigger, we’ve got advice about raising backyard chickens so you can supply your own eggs.
First, let’s take a look at the problem.
Bird Flu and 50 Million Dead Chickens
Last year, a dozen eggs would have probably cost you about $1.50. Today it’d be more than $4 in many parts of the country. In much of California, a dozen eggs cost more than $7.
Some of this huge price hike is due to inflation and supply chain woes, but by far the biggest reason is a massive avian flu outbreak among American chicken flocks, killing some 50 million chickens in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s basic math: 50 million fewer chickens means a lot fewer eggs. It’s a matter of supply and demand, leading to higher prices at the supermarket.
In recent days, US Customs and Border Protection officials have started reporting a spike in people attempting to smuggle eggs into the country illegally from Mexico, where egg prices are lower. (Bringing uncooked eggs from Mexico into the US is illegal due to the risk of bird flu.)
Customs officials in San Diego tweeted last week about “an increase in the number of eggs intercepted at our ports.” When the illicit eggs are discovered at border crossings, officials confiscate and destroy them.
Then there are the internet memes: It’s too expensive now to egg your enemy’s house. Easter egg hunts are hereby cancelled. Having eggs in your grocery cart is suddenly a sign of wealth.
Will Egg Prices Go Down?
Experts expect the price of eggs to fall eventually. Prices won’t fall back to where they were before our inflation woes. But the side effects of a massive avian flu outbreak should wear off over time — exactly when this will happen is up in the air. But there are signs that egg prices are starting to taper off.
Are Consumers Being Gouged Here?
A non-profit farming advocacy group called Farm Action is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate price gouging from America’s largest egg company.
The group wants antitrust regulators to examine record profits at the biggest company, Cal-Maine Foods, which controls 20% of the retail egg market. In December, the company reported that its profits were up 600% over the previous year, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
So what can you do about all this?
Save Money With These Baking Substitutes
We have a whole article on cheaper baking substitutes for ingredients such as eggs, butter, sugar, milk and chocolate.
Substituting eggs is a tricky endeavor for bakers. However, it may be necessary due to these prices.
Some ingredients provide the same lift to baked goods as eggs, notably baking powder and baking soda. But getting the ratio correct is complicated. Surprisingly, foodies concur that carbonated water is the best egg substitute for baked goods like cakes and muffins.
Egg Baking Substitutes
|Substitute||Ratio||Cost per dozen|
|Carbonated water (club soda)||¼ cup = 1 egg||69 cents (24 oz.)|
|Water, oil and baking powder||2 tbsp. water + 2 tsp. BP +1 tsp. oil = 1 egg||$1.32|
|Mashed banana||¼ cup = 1 egg||$1.38|
|Nut butter||3 tablespoons = 1 egg||$1.64|
If you don’t have baking powder, you can use a third of the same amount of baking soda.
Keep in mind that using bananas creates a different flavor profile as well as a gummier texture. But for some baked goods, the additional moisture in bananas can be a boon for your taste buds.
The Revenge of the Backyard Chicken
What else can you do? If you’re thinking bigger, you might consider raising backyard chickens so you can supply your own eggs.
Here’s our guide to raising backyard chickens — what’s involved and what it costs.
Be warned that it’s not necessarily easy. Before impulse-buying some baby chicks, you’ll want to think carefully about all the costs associated with chicken keeping.
Still, it’s one way to ensure yourself a steady supply of eggs.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Here’s your chance to find out.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Kaz Weida, a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, contributed.