What’s going on with egg prices in California?

When California’s egg laws took effect on January 1, 2015, many egg producers weren’t prepared, causing a temporary imbalance between supply and demand. While some egg producers and retailers wrongly believe that compliance with the CDFA’s food safety rule 1350 means they’re also in compliance with Prop 2 and AB 1437 (which are higher standards), egg prices in California have now largely normalized.

In California, many egg producers failed to use the six year phase-in period offered by Prop 2 to prepare for the law, resulting in higher prices when the law took effect. However, Feedstuffs reported on March 30, 2015, that “the implementation of Proposition 2 in Calif. did initial disruption in market supply on January 1, 2015. However, prices have moderated and the shell egg market in Calif. seems to be striking a more favorable balance of supply and demand as producers adjust to the new standards.” Similarly, after Europe brought in animal welfare reforms in 2012, egg prices initially rose, only to fall a year later.

Prices for all animal products have increased this year due to high grain prices. Egg prices have increased less than prices for beef and pork, and remain one of the least expensive animal products in the marketplace. Additionally, eggs only make up a small part of consumers’ food budgets, and a dozen eggs still cost less than a venti latte at Starbucks.

Prop 2—enacted by an overwhelming margin in 2008—gave egg producers six years to convert to come into compliance with its basic animal welfare standard. Yet instead of using that lengthy phase-in time wisely, many egg producers sat on their hands, suing time and again to try to nullify both Prop 2 and its accompanying 2010 law, AB 1437, losing every single suit brought. Many egg producers waited until the last minute in an attempt to artificially create a crisis, and some grocers unfortunately took advantage of the “crisis” to temporarily inflate prices and earn more revenue.

The good news is that a number of producers have already transitioned to or expanded their cage-free egg production in order to comply with the law and satisfy consumer demand.

The status quo in the egg industry in which birds are locked in cages is both cruel and unsafe. This external cost has been paid by the hens’ increased suffering and by consumers who were harmed by increased risk of salmonella. Californians made it clear through their vote and their elected representatives that such an external cost to animals and consumers has no place on California farms or its marketplace. That’s why they overwhelmingly passed Prop 2 and AB 1437, and egg producers should comply with the will of the people.