Expensive Easter Could Mean Grade-A Profits For Egg Producers

Nation’s largest egg producer profits surges 717% as bird flu decimated flocks and drove up prices

Young woman doing groceries in a local supermarket, holding an egg carton and checking the quality of the eggs before she buys them

Brothers91 / Getty Images

As you contemplate shelling out more for eggs this Easter season, here's a reality check: Profit for the biggest U.S. producer surged eightfold in the past year.

Cal-Maine Foods said this week that pricier eggs meant its net income jumped more than eight-fold in the quarter ended Feb. 25 from the same period a year earlier, to $323.2 million.

The company is benefitting from a bird flu outbreak that the USDA says killed more than 43 million egg-laying hens in 2022. Cal-Maine says its own flocks have remained unscathed by the outbreak, with no positive tests reported at its own facilities or those of its contracted suppliers. Meanwhile, egg prices have more than doubled. A dozen large grade-A eggs fetch for an average of $4.21 nationwide, up from $2.01 last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Consumers could face even higher prices as Easter approaches, the USDA said in a report earlier in March. Egg inventories, reeling from the effects of the disease outbreak, were the lowest in at least three years a month out from the holiday, putting upward pressure on wholesale prices. 

Cal-Maine and other egg producers are facing backlash in the courts and on Capitol Hill. The same filing that reported record profit noted the company is facing three separate lawsuits: One from consumer protection authorities in Texas, another from food processing companies dating back to 2008, and a class-action suit from consumers. The suits accuse the company of violating consumer protection laws, colluding with other egg companies to restrict production, and of price gouging during the pandemic.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Katie Porter, both Democrats, sent a letter to the company in February demanding an explanation for why it has increased its egg prices.

Article Sources
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  1. Cal-Maine Foods Inc. “Cal-Maine Reports Results for Third Quarter Fiscal 2023.”

  2. Department of Agriculture. "Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: March 2023."

  3. Elizabeth Warren. "Letter to Cal-Maine Foods on Egg Prices."

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