Jan 24, 2023 - Economy

Sen. Reed asks FTC to investigate possible price gouging of eggs

A U.S. senator is asking the FTC to investigate the high price of eggs. Photo: Kelly Tyko/Axios

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible price gouging by big egg companies because of the high price of eggs.

Driving the news: Reed sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan Tuesday asking the agency to open an investigation “to examine soaring profits to see if ‘fowl play’ or collusive pricing by industry giants could be unfairly harming consumers.”

What they're saying: “At a time when food prices are high and many Americans are struggling to afford their groceries, we must examine the industry’s role in perpetuating high prices and hold those responsible accountable for their actions,” Reed wrote in the letter.

  • “Consumers are used to seeing some volatility in the egg pricing market, but the current price spike in the industry’s favor warrants careful scrutiny," Reed said in a news release.
  • "Independent federal watchdogs should look at the facts and follow the evidence to ensure consumers are treated fairly," Reed said.

The big picture: Retail prices of eggs have “begun to ease,” a recent USDA report found but consumers still facing historically high prices for a dozen large eggs, which jumped another 66 cents on average in December, up to $4.25.

  • The protein's price increased nearly 60% in December compared to a year earlier, according to the recent Consumer Price Index released last week.
  • In a new USDA report Friday, the federal agency said consumer demand continues to decline and “shell egg prices remain at unappetizing levels in retail outlets relative to other proteins.”
  • Farm Action also is asking the government to investigate egg prices and “prosecute any violations of the antitrust laws it finds within, and ultimately, get the American people their money back,” the farmers’ group wrote in a letter to the FTC last week.
  • The group started a citizen petition to urge the FTC to investigate the price hikes.

Between the lines: The avian influenza outbreak or bird flu that began in February 2022 is a key factor in the price hike.

  • The outbreak has killed approximately 60 million birds, which includes 41 million commercial egg-laying hens, Karyn Rispoli, editor of the Egg Price Current for Urner Barry, recently told Axios.

Yes, but: Reed said that "small producers, which have faced many of the same market challenges as the biggest producers, have managed to keep prices under control."

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