Dollar Tree Stops Selling Eggs as Prices Soar

A new way to make an omelet is emerging.

AP/Teresa Crawford
Cartons of eggs on display at HarvesTime Foods at Chicago. AP/Teresa Crawford

Dollar Tree, Inc. is still running its over 15,000 locations throughout North America, but as consumers flock to their discount variety stores to avoid getting burned by inflation, one kitchen staple will be absent from their shelves: Eggs.

“Our primary price point at Dollar Tree is $1.25,” says a company spokesperson, Randy Guiler. “The cost of eggs is currently very high.” So they will pause sales and wait to stock their walls with Humpty Dumptys until “costs are more in line with historical levels.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans shelled out 138 percent more for a dozen eggs in December 2021 than December 2022. Although the cost fell 6.7 percent last month, their lingering high cost has led some to dub them a “luxury item.”

With the Easter and Passover holidays looming, demand will put further strain on a supply already contending with a global avian flu outbreak that has left 52.7 million birds dead across America, with mass slaughters on the scale of Nebraska’s 1.8 million in November routine.

Inflation is also roosting near 40-year highs. Although President Biden may tout drops of little statistical significance — as he did with a 0.1 percent downward tick over the summer — businesses and consumers don’t have the luxury of playing such clever shell games.

For those with tight budgets, yolk is no joke. A Democrat from West Virginia, Senator Manchin, cited Dollar Tree’s importance to consumers in his state — the nation’s fourth poorest — during Mr. Biden’s September 2021 push for $3.5 trillion in new inflationary spending.

“In West Virginia,” Mr. Manchin said, confusing Dollar Tree with the more upscale Dollar General, “I just saw today to where the One Dollar — what we call General Dollar Store, Dollar General — they’re no longer Dollar General. They are a Dollar-and-a-Quarter, a Dollar-and-Fifty-Cent General. That’s hard for West Virginia. A lot of people do shop there and that’s all they have.”

Junk science of years past warned that eggs caused heart disease, but more recent research finds that they remain the same source of healthy food they have been since the first chicken was domesticated thousands of years ago.

 “Most healthy people,” writes the Mayo Clinic, “can eat up to seven eggs a week without increasing their risk of heart disease.”  

An overlooked pressure as prices whisk higher are headlines driving consumers to buy more eggs than they might otherwise purchase. This was the case in 1973 when Johnny Carson cracked a joke on “the Tonight Show” about another common grocery list item: Toilet paper.

A short time prior, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, Harold V. Froelich, had put out a press release. “The U.S. may face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months,” it said, and “we hope we don’t have to ration toilet tissue.”

Carson’s joke exaggerated for comedic effect and, unlike the story and press release, his potty humor was seen by tens of millions before he took an ill-timed vacation. “I don’t want to be remembered as the man who created a false toilet paper scare,” Carson said upon his return.

The hoarding that Carson helped spark eased and that necessity returned to shelves, but chickens are live animals and can’t be restored with such swiftness. Despite the age-old question about which came first, an egg is indeed required to have a chicken.

It takes three weeks for a chicken to hatch from a fertilized egg — barring the occasional parthenogenesis or virgin birth — and four or five months for a hen to squeeze out what the 1976 ad campaign by the American Egg Board called “the incredible, edible egg.”

Dollar Tree hopes it can afford to stock cartons again in the fall, but until the supply is replenished and inflation eases, millions of Americans will be left in an unenviable position: Trying to make omelets without breaking any eggs.

The New York Sun

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