Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Katie Porter recently wrote letters to the five largest egg producers in the United States, asking them to explain why egg prices have risen so sharply.
The companies to which they wrote are Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms, Hillandale Farms, Daybreak Foods and Versova Management.
Of those five, Cal-Maine Foods is the only one that is publicly traded, and financial results released by that company was a large part of the ammunition that the two Democrats used to make their argument.
In her letter to Cal-Maine, Warren wrote “In the midst of record-high egg prices, your company, the largest egg producer in the United States, announced a 65% annual increase in profits in the third quarter of 2022, and no positive cases of avian flu. Although wholesale prices are finally starting to drop, they have not yet dropped for retail customers. And given the extent to which the high prices of eggs in 2022 and early 2023 harmed consumers and small businesses, we have ongoing questions about what caused the massive spike in egg prices – and how to make sure it is not repeated. …”
It is worth noting that Warren’s letter, dated February 16, did contain at least one error. It was addressed to Adolphus Baker, identifying him as the CEO of Cal-Maine Foods. While Baker is still the chairman of Cal-Maine’s board of directors, the company announced and WATT Global Media reported in the fall of 2022 that Baker stepped down as CEO and that position is now held by Sherman L. Miller.
Why are they concerned about egg costs now?
The current price of eggs is a legitimate concern, and I don’t necessarily believe that Warren and Porter are wrong to question it, but I do disapprove of the way they used it as a means for political gain, as I indicated in an earlier blog post. And if you wonder what their motives might be, let’s look at this historically.
The thing that is most perplexing about what Warren and Porter is why it took so long. Consider the states that they were elected to represent: Massachusetts and California.
Voters in California, which Porter represents, and Massachusetts, which Warren represents, had voters pass cage-free egg mandates. California had Proposition 12 and Massachusetts had Question 3.
Both laws require all shell egg and liquid egg products produced and sold in the states to be cage free and comply with usable floor space requirements in the 2017 United Egg Producers (UEP) cage-free guidelines.
And it wasn’t like during the campaign to pass both of these ballot initiatives that it wasn’t obvious to anyone who bought eggs that cage-free eggs cost more than conventionally produced eggs.
So were Warren and Porter so concerned about the high price of eggs that they campaigned for voters to reject both ballot measures? If they did, I certainly didn’t notice and I’ll bet none of our readers did, either.
Also, it is ironic that Massachusetts chose to amend its Question 3 law to change its space allowance per bird days before it was implemented in January 2022 to prevent a potential egg shortage, which took months of preparation, but no preparation seems to be going into understanding what’s going on with the egg shortage caused by avian influenza.
I get it. It is easier to insinuate companies are being greedy amid an animal disease outbreak than to advocate against something voters perceive as an improvement to animal welfare, so although it is not surprising, it is disappointing.
The reality of the situation is that the low-cost egg bus has already left the station in these two states, and Warren and Porter are now sprinting to catch a bus that not even Usain Bolt could catch.