egg carton with cracked eggshell

Why Are Eggs So Expensive?

Rachel Lark - March 16, 2024

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You may have noticed in the past several years that egg prices are wildly fluctuating. The influences that change egg values vary, which is why you may have seen ludicrous prices one year, viewed the costs level out, and then rose again six months later. These are historical examples and reasons behind why eggs are so expensive. 

You might be tempted to get your own chickens to keep egg production under your control once you see the whys and hows behind the industry.

1. Avian Flu and Other Illnesses

Disease and sickness plague several commercially profitable animal species yearly. It is to the point where entire businesses may crash and burn if too many get ill. In the past few years, avian flu has impacted millions of chickens — a massive detriment to egg production. To compensate for a loss in the quantity of products, sellers have to increase prices to stay afloat. 

Some chickens die naturally from the flu, while other enterprises have had to take more extreme measures and kill large amounts to prevent the flu’s spread. This is not only a red flag for egg prices but also forces the nation to reflect on ethical animal treatment within the animal agriculture industry. 

Are current practices, like too-tight pens, causing the disease to spread rapidly? How can egg producers change procedures to better isolate illness when it strikes? How can the sector better impose animal welfare standards to maintain respect and health?

2. Regulatory Shifts

Sustainable legislation and animal rights regulations are becoming more prominent as eco-consciousness blooms in pop culture. New consumer expectations change what buyers want to see on egg cartons, such as words like “cage-free” and “organic.” Despite the intentions being in the right place, farmers may inflate egg prices because of the additional hoops they must go through to get these certifications. 

They may have to buy new housing, change operations, retrain, and engage in other expensive transitions to meet standards. In short, they have to spend more money and time to earn those customers again ever since their priorities changed. This is positive, but it may be a motivator for more expensive eggs.

There are also regulations making eggs pricier in other ways. For example, the U.S. noticed many people attempting to bring eggs through the borders. Carrying certain agricultural products into the country, including raw eggs, is illegal. Instead of finding ways to resell these eggs or use them, Customs and Border Protection discard them.

3. Corporate Greed

Agencies selling eggs do so to make a profit. When that is the organization’s backbone, it makes sense why egg prices are sky-high. Companies want to earn more, therefore customers shoulder that burden.

But it’s more complex than this. Corporate price-gouging is an offense egg producers are losing millions over. A corporation may earn triple the profits by making prices absurd, but it will go down the drain much faster amid a lawsuit. 

However, some companies justify their price hikes in creative ways. Have you noticed some egg packaging looks more luxurious than the standard cartons and styrofoam? Many of these brands have eye-catching words like “free-range” and other claims to advertise why they are worth more than competitors. 

Though the accountability and transparency of these terms are questionable and potentially not standardized for regulation, businesses take advantage of aesthetics to entice customers to pay more. Sometimes, it’s honest marketing, while others curate attractive packaging for emotional appeal.

4. Inflation

Inflation is why eggs are so expensive, which is difficult for everyone to reconcile — companies and customers alike. Producers may feel contempt at federally rising prices as it impacts their reputation and customer relationships, but they may not have a choice. Customers grimace as the tags change weekly at supermarkets, wondering if they can blame the federal government.

Inflation harms everything in the industry, making egg price inflation much worse. Everything from chicken feed to animal health care is hit by inflation, too. The eggs receive compounding price increases when the entire operation is more expensive from a corporate perspective.

5. Supply and Demand

Some of these factors are long-term price increases, while there are plenty of short-term ones to make them briefly worse. Corporations price eggs based on trends, customer behaviors, supply chain difficulties, expert forecasts, and more. 

If eggs are in high quantities, the cost may drop. Producers can easily add 50 cents or more to capitalize on the upswing if demand is above average. Here are a few examples of when supply and demand could make egg prices unreasonable:

  • People bake more during the holidays, causing higher prices.
  • Hens lay fewer eggs in winter, making costs jump from scarcity.
  • More people are considering plant-based, egg-free diets, forcing companies to increase prices because of reduced sales.
  • Supply chain disruptions cause delays, resulting in temporary hikes.

You never know what could cause demand to shoot upward. For example, consider how viral internet trends like the ice bucket or the cinnamon challenge may have made people shop for buckets and cinnamon when they would not have otherwise. 

Cultural phenomena like this are more complex to detect, but they are common with the proliferation of news and media nowadays. The strangest anomaly may cause egg prices to balloon, but it could just as easily fall for similar reasons.

So, Why Are Eggs So Expensive?

Chickens produce so many eggs, so how could they ever reach unreasonable prices? Sometimes, ranchers have trouble collecting them, supply chains are disrupted, and disease spreads. It is hard to tell what subsequent years or even months will look like for egg-laying, but some might begin researching what it would take to care for a few chickens. 

Don’t be fooled — they need a lot of care and can be expensive. Regardless of your path, be sure you know the expenses and care associated with handling egg-laying hens. Depending on your circumstances, it might be worth it to you to pay the markup for store-bought cartons after some research.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.