Wed, 01 Feb 2023

US cracking down on egg-smuggling
23 Jan 2023, 07:21 GMT+10

Crossing into the country from Mexico with raw eggs is forbidden, no matter how expensive they get in California

US Customs and Border Protection officials have warned Americans against trying to smuggle raw eggs or poultry over the border from Mexico, citing disease risk as skyrocketing supermarket prices drive normally law-abiding citizens to take extreme measures. 

Raw egg seizures along the Mexican border jumped 108% for the last quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, CBP Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Charles Payne told El Paso NBC affiliate KTSM on Wednesday. 

During that same three-month period in 2022, the average cost of a dozen eggs in the US soared from $3.50 to $5.30. Across the border in Juarez, a customer can get 30 eggs for $3.40, the NBC affiliate reports - a bargain at twice the price, as long as one isn't caught.

Payne warned would-be egg smugglers they faced civil penalties for trying to save on groceries, with fines for failing to declare personal-use amounts averaging about $300. While a tweet from the San Diego Field Office warned of more alarming "penalties of up to $10,000" for "failure to declare agricultural items," Payne clarified that the heftier fines are leveled at "undeclared illegal commercial shipments."

Near-record inflation across the US has driven up prices of all groceries, and the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service also blames Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza - a new strain of bird flu - for the price increases, claiming the disease necessitated the slaughter of 43 million egg-laying hens in 2022 alone. Farmers are strongly encouraged to destroy their entire flocks upon mere suspicion of exposure to the virus, an infectious diseases expert told NBC, meaning millions of healthy chickens were culled as well. 

Industry group Farm Action has called on the Federal Trade Commission to examine egg companies' profits, accusing top US egg producer Cal-Maine of price-gouging. While US egg production was down 5% in October compared to the same period in 2021 and inventories had dropped 29% over the 12-month period ending in December, even these statistics don't explain the record-high prices, Farm Action attorney Basel Musharbash told Fox News on Saturday. 

Cal-Maine has defended its prices, arguing higher production and shipping costs also play a role. The company's sales for the last quarter of 2022 had increased 110% and gross profits surged over 600% over the previous year. 

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