Pluralistic: Eggflation is just more price-gouging (23 Jan 2023)

Today's links

Humpty Dumpty, smashed and crying at the bottom of a wall. To his left, a tiny Jacobin makes ready to decapitate an aristocrat in a guillotine. The guillotine's basket is full of eggs.

Eggflation is just more price-gouging (permalink)

The very instant that world governments rolled out relief funds so quarantine-shuttered businesses wouldn't fail and covid-furloughed workers wouldn't starve, corporate executives started rubbing their forelegs together and planning to raise prices and blame it on inflation brought on by letting The Poors have too much money.

They weren't exactly subtle about it: the CEOs of America's largest companies got on their quarterly investor calls and chortled about the willingness of "consumers" to blame inflation for the price-hikes they were cramming down their throats:

Republicans – always happy to serve as useful idiots for monopolists – stickered gas-pumps up and down the country with Joe Biden "I Did That" stickers, even as gas companies declared record profits and boasted to investors about how they were able to drill directly into drivers' wallets under cover of inflation.

In absolutely unrelated news, eggs are suddenly incredibly expensive. A dozen "conventional" eggs are currently averaging $2.88, which is double what they cost a year ago. Supposedly, this is caused by a supply chain shock (an avian flu outbreak).

But – and this will shock you, I know – the single company that dominates the US egg industry, Cal-Maine Food (AKA CALM – ugh) is making record profits. Their Q3/22 net was up 65% from the year before. Cal-Maine's Q4-22 sales were up record-smashing 110% – $801.7m:

Egg prices have climbed month-on-month even as other prices have stabilized or fallen. In its communications to investors, Cal-Maine's eminently guillotineable CFO Max Bowman attributed the monopolist's good fortune to "significantly higher selling prices" and "our ability to adapt to inflationary market pressures." Cal-Maine's stock is up 47% from a year ago – a record high.

All of this militates for price-gouging as the factor driving record egg prices, with bird flu standing in for inflation as a handy smokescreen. But even if we stipulate that Cal-Maine has cut its margins to the bone to help out the American egg-eater amid an avian superflu, that's no reason to CALM down.

Supply-chain shocks are endemic to concentrated markets. When we put all our eggs in one basket (see what I did there?) then even minor disruptions can have huge effects.

You may think that Cal-Maine is only one of many egg companies, but that's only because it's a many-tentacled octopus of a company, having rolled up dozens of other companies, including "Farmhouse Eggs, Sunups, Sunny Meadow, Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’ Lakes eggs."

The egg-aisle at your supermarket is just another Duff brewery, where all the different vats are being fed with the same sludge out of a common pipe:

In this regard, it's no different from the rest of the groceries elsewhere in the store. Nearly all the consumer packaged goods in your store come from one of two companies; Unilever and Procter and Gamble. If a local company does manage to eke out a success, one or the other will buy them, announcing as they do that "We know our customers value choice."

But giving control over our production to a single company doesn't just deprive us of the choice to take our business elsewhere. It's an invitation to dominant firms to squeeze all the slack out of their supply chains, stripping out all the safety margins, selling off plant and leasing it back, relocating to distant, low-tax jurisdictions.

Because not all inflation is caused by price-gouging. Some is caused by too little capacity:

Concentrated, financialized companies slash their payrolls, firing senior staff, declare massive dividends, then they founder when business picks up (looking at you, Southwest Air):

Whenever this kind of thing happens, corporate ghouls, ineffectual regulators, and the lickspittle apologists who carry their water shrug and say, "What, do you expect us to spend money on resilience, or take lower profits when your cost basis shifts?"

Yes. That is exactly what we should expect. And if they don't like it, we should shatter their monopolies. You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

Hey look at this (permalink)

A Wayback Machine banner.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago New CE lobby begs to voluntarily screw customers

#20yrsago Hilary Rosen resigns

#10yrsago TARDIS dress is bigger on the inside

#10yrsago More on “Escape From Tomorrow,” the guerrilla art-house movie shot at Walt Disney World and Disneyland

#10yrsago How the NY Daily News covered Stonewall

#5yrsago Trump slaps 30% tariff on imported solar-cells

#5yrsago Governor of Montana signs executive order banning state from doing business with non-neutral ISPs

#5yrsago South Korea, gripped by suicide epidemic, criminalizes suicide-pacts

#5yrsago Today’s scares over smartphones are largely indistinguishable from yesterday’s technology-driven moral panics

#5yrsago App to record sexual consent in the blockchain will be used to discredit sexual assault survivors

#5yrsago The inexperienced man-child frat-rat that Trump made deputy drug czar got fired from his only real job for not showing up

#5yrsago NHS okays hospitals and doctors storing patient data on public cloud servers

#5yrsago New York cops furious that the union has reduced the number of “get out of jail free” cards they can give to their pals

#5yrsago Facebook helped consolidate power for Cambodia’s dictator and his attack-dog media, then killed the independent press’s platform

#5ysago Social scientists have warned Zuck all along that the Facebook theory of interaction would make people angry and miserable

#5yrsago Sears Canada execs paid hundreds of millions in dividends before declaring bankruptcy and leaving 16,000 workers’ pensions unfunded

#5yrsago No such thing as Bernie Bros: Bernie’s approval rates are women 50%, Black people 70%, Latinos 55%; men 46%, whites 43%

#5yrsago Thanks to “consent” buried deep in sales agreements, car manufacturers are tracking tens of millions of US cars

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Friday's progress: 517 words (97064 words total)

  • The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. REVISIONS COMPLETE – AWAITING COPYEDIT

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Social Quitting

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest books:

Upcoming books:

  • Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Medium (no ads, paywalled):

(Latest Medium column: "Walking the Plank"

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla