First things first, to get it out of the way: there is currently no egg shortage.
But that doesn’t mean that stores aren’t sold out of eggs; the demand during COVID-19 for eggs has been sky-high, even if the supply has remained consistent. What’s going on here?
The Washington Post reports that egg sales are up 44 percent from the same week ending on March 14th one year ago. The week ending on March 21st was up an insane 86 percent over the same week last year. The average wholesale price has spiked, too; on March 21st, they hit an all-time high of $3.09 per dozen, according to data firm Urner Barry. Often when prices spike like this, it’s because supply is scarce. Not in this case; there are no shortages on the horizon. It’s simply that people are buying more eggs.
There are several reasons for the spike in egg purchasing. For one thing, eggs are a cheap source of protein; even at their most ethical and sustainable, it’s tough to find eggs that’ll cost more than two for a dollar, which is a great bang for your buck. Eggs are also wildly versatile while remaining easy to cook. It’s not unlikely that the first thing you ever learned to cook was a scrambled egg.
They’re also required ingredients for long, ambitious cooking and baking projects that Americans suddenly have the time and energy to undertake. Cakes, pies, pastas, and even some breads all need eggs, and with baking and elaborate cooking becoming a soothing, time-consuming pastime, eggs are a required ingredient.
Eggs are also a staple of preparedness shopping. The classic trio of items that sell out in grocery stores before, for example, a winter storm are Eggs, milk, and bread. But eggs have an advantage over milk and bread, too. Eggs can last for weeks in the refrigerator, providing an easy, quick, and maybe most importantly wholesome-feeling meal.
In terms of the market, the USDA says that egg supplies are stable, but that the typical Easter sales bump for eggs is expected to be much lower than usual. It’s kind of hard to have an egg-dyeing Easter party over Zoom or Skype. The egg producers aren’t worried. As of March 30th, Cal-Maine Foods, the nation’s largest egg supplier, says: “To date, Cal-Maine Foods facilities are operating normally, and we have not experienced any supply chain or delivery disruptions.”
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