A job applicant was recently asked by a potential employer on LinkedIn, “So, what salary range are you targeting?”
The applicant replied, “I want to be able to throw a carton of eggs in my shopping cart without thinking twice about it.”
Wouldn’t we all.
At this time last year, consumers in California were paying, on average, $2.35 for a dozen large eggs. By December of 2022, that average price more than doubled to $4.83. Since then, just six weeks later, the price has risen another 50 percent — up to $7.37 per dozen, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Even as economic indicators show that inflation is slowing, egg prices remain sky high.
“We just keep on ordering them,” said Village Fresh Market assistant manager Marco Van Oostende, who’s worked at the independent grocery store for 28 years. “We haven’t had the supply issues with our eggs, but we do hear from customers about how outrageous the prices are or how they’ll have to take out a loan to buy eggs — the standard jokes about high prices.”
According to Stephen Gemperle, president of Gemperle Family Farms, California egg producers provide only about half of the Golden State’s needs. The rest of state’s eggs come from various places around the country, such as the Midwest, which has been hit particularly hard by avian influenza.
“There are shortages of supply because of the flu, and the prices have skyrocketed,” said Gemperle, whose operation on Lander Avenue is one of the largest in Northern California. “Every store is different in how they buy eggs, but most of the inflation is in white eggs. The largest shortages are in white eggs.”
Alexandria Miranda, owner of Hen and Harvest Farm, a pastured poultry operation on Linwood Avenue in Turlock, says that avian flu affects hens much like the flu affects humans.
“It spreads really quickly and will result in a loss of appetite and cause a drop in egg production,” said Miranda, whose 600 birds are less susceptible to flu because they roam free. “The issue is, if there’s an outbreak in your barn, the USDA will come in and wipe out the entire flock.”
That’s “wipe out” as in euthanize, which can be a devastating setback for farms.
“I assume there’s a rigorous process for disinfecting those barns and timeline before you can begin operating again,” said Miranda. “And even if you are able to get chickens, it can take four to five months before they’re ready to start laying eggs.”
Van Oostende says there’s been a slight decline in prices over the past two weeks, but even so, the prices remain shocking to customers.
Still, Village Fresh is doing all it can to help customers.
“We’ve brought in more medium-sized eggs, which is a lower price-point per dozen,” said Van Oostende. “This gives the customer a less expensive option. And we’ve taken away some of our margin to help keep prices somewhat respectable.”