With everyday people scrambling to keep up with the rising cost of eggs, there’s a quiet battle being waged behind the scenes. According to Bloomberg Law, General Mills Inc., a Kraft Heinz Co. unit, Kellogg Co., and Nestle SA are alleging that Cal-Maine Foods Inc. and Rose Acre Farms Inc. — the two largest US egg producers — along with two egg-industry trade groups, have been driving up the cost of eggs intentionally.
The firm that represents the food companies is asking for damages to be paid and in a trial scheduled to begin November 29, the jury will decide the amount. Brandon Fox, a Jenner & Block LLP partner representing the food companies, said to Bloomberg Law, “We are incredibly pleased by the jury’s decision. For the first time, the defendants have been held liable for their antitrust violations. We are now going to turn our attention to the damages phase.”
Previously, the theory behind the rising cost of eggs was the avian flu “HPAI" and bird feed, but the actual culprit behind the egg-flation appeared to be the producers themselves. According to a More Perfect Union, egg producers and industry groups used a price-fixing scheme to rig the market illegally. They exported millions of eggs overseas, which nearly doubled the price domestically. Apparently, the scheme was intended to drive costs up around Thanksgiving and Easter.
Between January 2020 and July 2022, Cal-Maine Foods Inc. tripled its gross profit margin after raising the price of its eggs. A More Perfect Union suggests that if Cal-Maine Foods had raised prices fairly to offset the lower egg supply and price of bird feed, the cost for the consumer would remain the same.
This is the latest lawsuit against egg producers in what’s been more than a decade of back-and-forth — the suit covers damages done between 1999-2008. Hopefully, following the November 29 court date, it'll be the cost of eggs that take a great fall.