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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
It seems like this customer didn't get the memo unfortunately.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org