The cheapest price for a dozen conventional eggs is $3.50 at Raley’s in Sacramento. That’s about 75 cents more than the national average, which is at a record high $2.62.
So, what’s driving the premium on California eggs? First, there’s the drought.
"There’s less grain production, less feed production which means higher prices," says John Segale with the Association of California Egg Farmers. "There’s also a decision you have to make as a producer on whether or not you’re going to have enough water for your hens."
Segale says the avian flu outbreak in the Midwest is also at play. Even though the virus has only been detected in a single California chicken flock, the disease has devastated more than 47 million birds across the country.
As national production supplies dwindle the price goes up here because California imports a significant portion of its eggs from out of state.
But the main reason the price has increased is because Proposition 2 went into effect in January. The new law reduces crowding in hen houses, and space costs money on a farm. Economists say Proposition 2 has added 40 cents to the price of a dozen eggs.
Shoppers at Raley's are mixed about whether animal welfare is worth a premium.
Teri Stapleton says she’s on the fence.
"As a single parent trying to buy stuff at a higher rate can be challenging sometimes to buy stuff, but it’s for a good cause," says Stapleton.
Pat Alexander can’t stand the thought of birds in battery cages, or even cage-free facilities.
"That’s ridiculous in the first place. I mean nevermind that they’ve chopped their beaks back to their nostrils," says Alexander. "Or, they don’t have any feathers. It’s still inhumane."
She picks up a dozen organic free range eggs priced at nearly $7.
Frank Finnerty is buying conventional eggs at Hilliker’s Ranch near San Diego. He doesn’t care if hens have more space.
"It doesn’t matter to me," says Finnerty. "Unfortunately this situation where they have to put these compliances in gets passed on to the consumer."
Even though most of the customers I talked to weren’t happy about current prices, no one said they’re buying fewer eggs.
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