Cracking the Big Egg Conspiracy

Paul Maust processes eggs after they are washed at Mausts California Poultry in Chino, California, on January 20, 2023. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/Press-Enterprise/Getty Images)

Dear Capitolisters,

Just a few short months ago, the entire country went crazy over eggs. Maybe it was the cold weather or holiday boredom, I dunno, but it seemed like everyone—politicians, pundits, comedians, my mom—in December and January couldn’t stop talking about abnormally high egg prices. The situation even spawned an endless series of very funny memes:

But all this egg chatter wasn’t just funny yolks (sorry), it also had a darker side. In particular, a rather large contingent of populists—mainly on the progressive left but not entirely—took to the interwebs to angrily proclaim that sky-high prices were caused primarily by sinister, profiteering corporations that had used their monopoly power (or whatever) to extort poor, powerless American consumers. 

In a January letter to the Federal Trade Commission, for example, the group Farm Action, which “leads the fight against monopolistic corporate control over our food and farming system,” called the spike in egg prices “organized theft” by “large egg producers” to “extort billions of dollars from the pockets of ordinary Americans … without any legitimate business justification.” The organization’s petition was backed by Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed. Meanwhile, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tweeted that “Egg prices are up 60%. That’s absurd. People are paying up upwards of $6 and $7 for a dozen eggs. Why? Corporate greed.” He then made an (admittedly decent) egg joke: “When it comes to the corporate monopolization of eggs, the people shouldn’t go over easy.” Sen. Bernie Sanders used the situation to justify a “windfall profits tax” on large corporations: “Corporate greed is the producer of Egg-Land’s Best, Farmhouse Eggs & Land O’Lake Eggs, increasing its profits by 65% last quarter to a record-breaking $198 million while doubling the price of eggs & reporting no positive cases of avian flu.”

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