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Food & Drink

Is San Francisco facing an egg shortage? We went on a hunt to find out

Half-empty shelves of eggs are seen at a supermarket in California on Jan. 8, 2023. | Getty Images

Reports have been rolling in of egg prices skyrocketing as a deadly bird flu sweeps chicken populations across the nation, leading to a dwindling supply of market inventory. Consumers cruising their local grocery stores have been sharing stories of bare shelves where the staple breakfast food should be, or signs limiting the buyer to a maximum amount of cartons available to purchase.

These accounts, combined with the torrential rain San Francisco has been experiencing since the start of the new year, have prompted residents to wonder whether they should be stocking up for all their egg-related needs in the near future. 

So how bad is the shortage? I decided to travel to five grocery stores located within a 10-minute driving distance from The Standard's office and inspect their egg inventory for myself to unscramble this mystery.

The five grocery stores I selected around The Standard's offices—Trader Joe's, Safeway, Whole Foods, Target and Foods Co.

Trader Joe's
📍 555 Ninth St.

First up was our local Trader Joe’s, which my colleagues and I frequent for lunch on a weekly basis, and also serves as a primary grocery source for other office workers in the SoMa area.  

Curiosity and trepidation are plain on my face as I walked into the first location.

Lo and behold, the shelves were full to the brim with all kinds of egg varieties, including Large, Jumbo, pasture-raised and cage-free. The prices all seemed to be in line with Trader Joe’s normal budget-friendly ranges as well, ranging from $2.69 to a high of $6.49. 

Rating: 4 out of 4 eggs

I also questioned one of the workers stocking a shelf nearby about recent inventory changes. He shrugged and said that the egg commerce had been business as usual, with no significant eggs-amples of a drastically changing market. 

📍 2300 16th St.

My next stop was the classic California grocery chain Safeway, known as a no-nonsense source for pantry staples and frozen meals. This store was a bit farther away, and the rain was beginning to start in earnest now, so I hopped in my car to get there. 

The chosen soundtrack for this important journalistic endeavor: I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket—Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1957)

As I walked into the store, it hit me that this would be the closest I’ll ever get to having an Easter Sunday egg hunt. What an egg-cellent way to spend my morning—if only there were a giant rabbit and candy at the end of my journey. 

I have fond memories of pooling money with my friends after middle school to buy bulk bags of candy at our local Safeway growing up. How time flies.

Here, much like Trader Joe’s, there wasn’t even a hint of an egg scarcity—although prices were slightly higher, reaching up to $9.79 for the fancier organic versions. 

Rating: 3 out of 4 eggs

Not only were the shelves full, the store even had a wide offering of egg-adjacent ingredients, such as cartons of egg whites, single-serve scramble kits and pouches of hard-boiled eggs for time-pressed protein enthusiasts. 

Has science finally gone too far? Only time will tell.

Whole Foods
📍 2300 16th St.

Slightly dazed by the egg-stravagant options, I had just witnessed, I ventured over to my third location—Whole Foods. Along the way, I decided to name all of the egg dishes I could think of, like Forrest Gump’s Bubba before me—except he was focused on the shrimpier aspects of food rather than poultry-related. 

Mama always said life is like a carton of eggs—you never know whether they're in stock or not.

After arriving at Whole Foods, I found my first interesting eggs-hibit of the day—four out of five shelves were bare of cartons. Additionally, there were signs informing customers that they were limited to two cartons per purchase to preserve inventory.

Rating: 1 out of 4 eggs

The one shelf that did contain eggs seemed to be comprised of the higher-end organic versions, with the more ordinary (and cheaper) options completely sold out. A nearby worker told me that she had noticed the low inventory beginning roughly three weeks ago, and the problem had worsened after customers rushed the store to stock up after hearing about it on the news.

It seemed like for this Whole Foods, the shortage was no yolk—throwing my eggs-pectations for the next store into question. What would I find on the next set of shelves?

📍 1690 Folsom St.

I normally go to Target for affordable T-shirts and Tupperware, but today my sights were focused on its grocery aisles.

I found the answer to my question pretty quickly—Target was immune to the shortage as well. Barring a single sad shelf missing its stock, almost all versions of eggs were available for purchase, with prices ranging from $3.49 to $7.49.

Rating: 3 out of 4 eggs

Additionally, if you are in the market for candy, the store was well-prepared for Valentine’s Day … a full month before the holiday. 

I tried looking for a Cadbury Creme Egg to combine my two discoveries of the day, but I was unfortunately unsuccessful.

Tell me one of the biggest corporate holidays is around the corner without telling me one of the biggest corporate holidays is around the corner.

Foods Co.
📍 1800 Folsom St.

For my final stop, I decided to venture out to a local grocery store serving the Mission neighborhood as a contrast to the chain stores I had visited so far. Foods Co. is absolutely giant, and focuses on bulk items and ingredients. 

Although I'd never been inside a Foods Co. before, the name of the business was immediately reassuring—simple and to the point.

It was here I found my second sign of the shortage—most of the eggs sold in bulk packages for high-volume meals were missing. Foods Co. had also posted a sign prohibiting more than two cartons sold per person.

Rating: 1 out of 4 eggs

It seems like this customer didn't get the memo unfortunately.

I wonder how she's going to talk her way out of this one.

Final Takeaways

So what did I learn? Extrapolating this neighborhood to the city at large, San Francisco seems to be fairly immune to the nationwide egg shortage, although cheaper options are in high demand and prices have risen significantly across the board. 

Grocery workers acknowledge the lower stock, but seem unfazed by the developments, and if your local store doesn't have what you need, chances are the next one a few blocks away does.

Remember to keep to the two carton maximum where signs are posted, and make sure your morning meals don't get too eggs-travagant.

Jesse Rogala can be reached at