by Sean Hemmersmeier, Las Vegas Review Journal, January 13, 2023
With egg prices hitting as much as $8 at some grocery stores in the Las Vegas Valley, it was business as usual Thursday at the breakfast and lunch spot Egg and I on West Sahara Avenue.
The eatery had a bustling lunch crowd and some could be seen eating eggs — a food staple, whose rising costs have highlighted the inflation consumers and Las Vegas businesses are facing.
“This last year, we’ve been battling on pricing and trying to keep costs down,” said Daniel Rocha, corporate chef for Eggworks, which owns the Egg and I and six other restaurants in Las Vegas.
Eggworks earns its name by buying 7,500 to 10,500 dozen eggs per week, according to Rocha. It’s seen the price for a case of eggs, which contains about 15 dozen eggs, triple in recent months with cost for a case over $100.
The Consumer Price Index, released Thursday, showed inflation declined to 6.5 percent in December compared with a year earlier, and was down from 7.1 percent in November. But for necessities like food, the report showed a different story.
The government’s report showed egg prices increased 59.9 percent year over year, with food prices rising 10.4 percent. The average price of a dozen eggs in December was $4.25. In January 2022, the average price was $1.93, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Summerlin resident Susan Kuehl had just wrapped up her shopping at Trader Joe’s. She said she loves to bake and often makes treats for her neighbors, but she has been baking less because of the recent increase in egg prices.
“I’ve been on more of an oatmeal kick lately and less of a baking one,” Kuehl said.
Drago Sisters Bakery, on Rainbow Boulevard just south of the 215 Beltway, said it has seen egg prices triple. Owner Tori Thomas said the higher prices aren’t just limited to eggs.
“Everything, not just eggs,” Thomas said. “The butter has gone up (in price). Everything has gone up, which increases all our prices … and customers get frustrated because prices are going up.”
Cause for the shortage
Joe Tanaka, who had just finished grocery shopping at Smith’s on Rancho Drive, said prices are up across the board and that he now budgets $6 for a dozen eggs, which he thinks is an “outrageous” price.
“(Eggs) six months ago were a lot cheaper,” he said.
Tanaka isn’t wrong. In June 2022, the average price for a dozen eggs was $2.71, according to the BLS.
The main cause for the sharp increase in egg prices stems from an outbreak of the highly contagious avian flu, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 57.8 million birds, 369 commercial flocks and 47 states, including Nevada, have been affected by the avian flu.
Thomas said it’s also been difficult to find enough eggs for Drago Sisters Bakery, which goes through about 30 dozen eggs per week.
“If it keeps going up, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.
Kuehl, who started her grocery shopping in Downtown Summerlin early Thursday, said she follows a simple strategy to make sure gets a pack of a dozen eggs each week.
“You got to shop early and often,” Kuehl said.
But even then, some local grocery stores had limited inventory or implemented purchase limits.
On Thursday morning, a visit to Whole Foods on Lake Mead Boulevard found no eggs for sale, but it did have signs limiting customers to purchasing two dozen eggs at a time. The Smith’s on the corner of Durango Drive and Sahara Avenue had a half-full section of eggs with no purchase restrictions.
Mariana’s Supermarket on Sahara Avenue had a full shelf with no purchase limit but its eggs were on the high-end at just over $9. Trader Joe’s in Downtown Summerlin was also well stocked but with a limit of two dozen eggs per customer, though earlier in the week an early evening visit found the egg section had been replaced with bottled drinks and canned beer and a sign reading “OUT of EGGS. DUE TO A SHORTAGE, WE ARE OUT OF EGGS TODAY. We apologize for the inconvenience!”
Feeling the pinch
Increased prices are expected to continue this year. The USDA estimates egg prices could increase by 4 percent to 5 percent in 2023 while prices for all food could increase 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent.
Island Sushi & Grill in Silverado Ranch has increased its prices for dishes using eggs, according to Chef Yoji Shimonishi.
“We used to get 30 dozen that would cost us roughly around $40. Now, we’re looking at $103 to $108,” Shimonishi said. “We have to raise prices and just be careful. It’s not much, we raised certain items 25 cents.”
Eggworks has tried to reduce costs for customers by buying in bulk and storing what it can at a warehouse, but prices keep rising.
“Everything that has to do with food has gone up,” Rocha said. “About a year ago, potatoes were cheap. It used to be, for a case, maybe $18 a case and now it’s more than double the price.”
He said last year Eggworks has raised prices by a total of about $4 for its bigger menu items.
Other restaurants like 138 Degrees, a chophouse in Henderson, are seeing increases in food costs but don’t feel like they are in a position to raise prices. Instead, the chophouse is taking the “grunt” of the burden, according to Chef Matthew Meyer.
“We’ve gone from paying 18 cents an egg to almost 60 cents an egg. That’s quite a dramatic increase, and we don’t really see raising our prices as a solution to that issue,” Meyer said. “Where we’re located and our demographic and the prices we’re already charging, raising prices wouldn’t help our bottom line.”