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Egg prices soared during the pandemic. Was it price gouging? : The Indicator from Planet Money

Egg Prices: States Cry Foul

BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 05: In this photo illustration an egg yolk falls out of its shell on January 5, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 05: In this photo illustration an egg yolk falls out of its shell on January 5, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Eggs are an American staple. And for good reason: they’re a good source of protein; their shells mean they can keep for a relatively long period of time; and they’re cheap. Well, usually. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, people rushed to the supermarket to stock up on household staples: toilet paper, antibacterial wipes, flour, sugar, yeast … and eggs.

The result was a surge in the price of eggs. Before the pandemic, the average price of a dozen eggs was less than a buck. Once the run on eggs began, prices went as high as five bucks a dozen in certain parts of the country. Several states responded by suing egg companies for price gouging, saying egg companies took that moment to profit off the panic buying.

The egg producers’s defense? Basic economics.

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