When Javier Angeles opened his bakery, Angeles Panadería, in November, he didn’t anticipate raising his prices a few months later, yet he and his wife are agonizing about the prospect. The reason: Eggs.
“We use eggs for everything,” Angeles said. “When I made my menu I did not expect the eggs to become expensive in this way. Most of my breakfast menu has eggs. So if I knew that (this would happen) I would have tried to make a different menu before, without eggs.”
The surging price of eggs is primarily a result of a particularly brutal Avian flu outbreak that has killed 43 million egg-laying hens across the country, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Egg prices have owners of local bakeries and breakfast diners fretting over what to do.
“Egg prices for us have gotten ridiculous,” said Sarah Burtch, owner of Great Harvest Bread Company. “I do not believe it is (sustainable for a bakery). I’ve seen a lot of smaller bakeries, they’re like, ‘We just can’t do it anymore. The prices have gotten so out of control.’”
This time last year, Meg Heriford, owner of Ladybird Diner, was fetching 30 dozen eggs for $55. Now, she said, she’s paying more than triple that.
One of her main ambitions is remaining accessible to everyone when it comes to food costs, but that’s becoming difficult as egg prices keep climbing.
“When it’s something that’s such a huge part of our menu, I’ve got to adjust things somewhere,” she said. “We still have to be able to pay people good wages to come and do this work. So I can’t cut from anywhere. We’re out of places to trim.”
For bakeries and restaurants reliant on them, there’s not a clever way to pivot around eggs, Heriford said.
“I feel like I’m pretty great at finding substitutions for things. If I can’t source a product, I can usually come up with a way that we can still pull off a recipe, because we’re clever and adaptable and all of that, but eggs are eggs. You can’t — there’s nothing else that’s an egg.”
From nutrition to structure and flavor, eggs are an essential baking ingredient, said Natasha Kopriva, owner of Kopriva Cakes.
“I’ve even had people ask me if I’ve considered doing eggless and trying to find recipes without eggs, but I just don’t want to mess up the quality,” Kopriva said. “I’m just kind of eating the cost right now.”
Kopriva considered raising her prices as inflation impacted baking staples like flour and butter in 2022. But with egg prices almost 60% higher now than they were a year ago, according to the Consumer Price Index, Kopriva is about to commit to a price increase to offset the heightened cost of not just eggs, but everything.
Ryan Shannon, owner of the pop-up Chonky Sweets and Eats, is in his off season, but he’s eyeing egg prices and grimacing at the grocery store whenever he buys them.
One of Shannon’s staples is the scone. Whipping up a batch for the Farmer’s Market means cracking dozens upon dozens of eggs, an ingredient that didn’t strongly impact Shannon’s product cost before. Eggs were reliably cheap and of minimal significance when it came to pricing. Not so anymore. Shannon hasn’t raised prices since he opened in 2019, but with eggs as high as they are, it’s time, he said.
Kate Gonzalez, owner of Global Cafe in downtown Lawrence, has devised an egg surcharge she plans to implement into her menu in the next few weeks.
“I hate to raise prices because I know it’s just a struggle right now and I don’t think eating out should be for the wealthy,” Gonzalez said.
“Every dish that has eggs, like if you’re ordering omelets, it’s just going to be a dollar more because I don’t want to reprint all my menus and I definitely don’t want to raise my prices permanently — just while eggs are high.”
Egg prices are unstable, rising and falling with fuel costs and consumer demand. During December, more people were scooping up egg cartons for holiday baking. The combination of increased demand and low egg inventory jacked up prices even more. The USDA predicts that egg prices will start to fall now that the holiday baking season is over and as farmers begin to rebuild their egg-laying stock.
Louis Wigen-Toccalino, owner of Cellar Door, has raised the price of his egg sandwich from $6 to $8 since June of 2020. But for now he’s trying to hold the line.
One of Cellar Door’s beloved menu items is the fancier, a small French cake. Eggs are a central ingredient.
“I’m trying really hard not to raise the price on those and I don’t know if I’ll be able to but we have not raised the price — yet,” he said.
Wigen-Toccalino fears elevating prices much more will make eating out an out-of-reach extravagance for many people.
“I’m so hesitant to raise prices,” he said. “I don’t want coming in here for breakfast to be a luxury.”
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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.