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April 4, 2023 Big Food News

Big Food

Largest U.S. Egg Producer Posts 718% Profit Hike Igniting Call to ‘Break Up Big Ag’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) renewed his call to break up agricultural monopolies after Cal-Maine Foods last week announced huge increases in revenues and profits. The egg giant previously blamed soaring egg prices on the avian flu outbreak.

By Brett Wilkins

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) renewed his call to break up agricultural monopolies after the nation’s largest egg producer reported that its quarterly profits soared more than 700%.

Cal-Maine Foods, which controls about 20% of the U.S. egg market, announced last week that its revenue for the quarter ending Feb. 25 rose 109% to $997.5 million, while profit for the same period skyrocketed 718% to $323.2 million.

In a statement, Cal-Maine president and CEO Sherman Miller attributed the company’s soaring profits to “the ongoing epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza which has significantly reduced the nation’s egg-laying capacity.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “U.S. egg inventories were 29% lower in the final week of December 2022 than at the beginning of the year,” while “more than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost to the disease itself or to depopulation since the outbreak began in February 2022.”

Sanders — who took on agricultural monopolies while campaigning for president in 2016 and 2020 — questioned Cal-Maine’s narrative in a tweet arguing that “we must break up Big Ag and enact a windfall profits tax.”

Sanders wasn’t the only congressional critic of Cal-Maine’s latest profits.

“While working families paid record prices for eggs, Cal-Maine raked over 700% more in profits — without reporting a single case of avian flu,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted on Thursday. “We need to crack down on corporate price gouging to provide Americans with relief at the grocery store.”

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), who is running for U.S. Senate, wrote on Twitter on March 30 that “corporate greed is driving inflation.”

“We need more competition to drive down prices,” she added. “In the meantime, I’m demanding answers from Cal-Maine directly.”

In February, Warren and Porter wrote letters to the heads of the five biggest U.S. egg producers expressing their concern over the “massive spike” in prices and “the extent to which egg producers may be using fears about avian flu and supply shocks as a cover to pad their own profits at the expense of American families.”

The advocacy group Farm Action earlier this year implored the Federal Trade Commission to investigate “apparent price gouging, price coordination, and other unfair or deceptive acts or practices by dominant producers of eggs such as Cal-Maine Foods.”

Originally published by Common Dreams.

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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