Rising egg prices leave Evanston businesses scrambling


Illustration by Shveta Shah

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dozen large grade A eggs cost $4.82 on average in January 2023, compared to $1.92 last year.

Alicia Tang, Reporter

Eggs are the “number one ingredient” at Ovo Frito Café in Evanston, according to co-owner Zinnia Iglesias. 

“Omelets, pancakes, french toast — everything has eggs,” Iglesias said.

But, as prices of eggs have risen almost 150% across the nation over the past year, local business owners like Iglesias have had to raise their prices to cope. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price for a dozen large grade A eggs peaked in January 2023 at $4.82 –– compared to $1.93 a year prior. Data for February, the reported average price, showed prices remain elevated at $4.21.

Iglesias said the eggs Ovo Frito Café purchases are still triple what they were last year. That’s forced the restaurant to raise their prices.

Iglesias said Ovo Frito Café regulars have had mixed reactions to the increased prices.

“A few customers do complain,” Iglesias said. “We have to explain what’s going on in the market.” 

The restaurant, whose name means “fried egg” in Portuguese, purchases around 180 eggs a week, she said. The establishment previously purchased eggs solely from food distributor US Food, Iglesias said, but now compares prices from different suppliers, including Restaurant Depot, on a weekly basis.

“We try to get the big cases out of US Foods because they’re heavier,” she said. “But right now we have no choice. We have to go buy (eggs) ourselves.”

According to second-year Kellogg student Alena Marovitz, co-president of Northwestern’s Kellogg Food and Agribusiness Club, egg prices have been impacted by global inflation and the most recent avian flu outbreak. The outbreak has affected upwards of 58 million birds and is the deadliest in U.S history. 

Even minute changes in egg prices can negatively impact small businesses, according to Marovitz. Some restaurants are even adding a service charge to account for these effects. 

“I think it’s a way for restaurants to show, ‘Hey, these are hard times for all of us, and we want to continue serving you but we also want to stay alive,’” Marovitz said.

Eggs are often used as a loss leader by businesses, according to Marc Dresner, director of integrated marketing at the American Egg Board. Retailers sometimes use eggs to draw in customers, hoping sales from other products will offset their egg losses, he said.

But, Dresner added, eggs are irreplaceable in restaurants. 

“Eggs have numerous functional benefits in formulation — so in products as an ingredient that no other single ingredient can match,” he said. “And, frankly, people love them.”

Jory Downer, owner of Bennison’s Bakery, said the bakery purchases about 450 eggs a week in 30-pound pails from a local distributor. Previously $30, each pail now costs around $77, he said.

Bennison’s has also increased some of its prices to account for rising egg costs. Downer said their jam-filled pączki, a Fat Tuesday favorite, costs $2.40 compared to around $2.20 last year. 

But the bakery is not cracking under pressure. 

“We haven’t had much (pushback),” Downer said. “It’s so well advertised — everybody knows everything’s so expensive.”

Evanston resident Rebecca Cheeks said Bennison’s has been making custom poppyseed coffee cakes for her family every Christmas for decades.

She realized the prices were higher than usual after she asked her mother to buy some pączkis, Cheeks added.

“I gave her the amount of money I thought it should have cost, and it was about $6 more,” Cheeks said. “I said, ‘Oh there’s no way that they cost that much, and she showed me the receipt.’”

Still, Cheeks said she would have purchased the treats either way. She said she continues to support the business because of its long history in Evanston.

“I appreciate their longevity and I enjoy their employees,” Cheeks said. “This is my bakery.”

But, many Evanston businesses are still worried about the effects of increasing egg prices. 

Rosario Barreto, co-owner and manager of Frida’s Breakfast and Lunch, said the restaurant has been forced to increase menu prices, raising concerns about the restaurant’s financial health.

“You cannot raise too much — you want to keep business. We are taking the loss,” Barreto said. “You know that (the price) is going to go up and then suddenly has to come down, so we just go through that.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Aliciat623

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