With egg prices sky-high, agents at the border of Tijuana and San Ysidro, south of San Diego, say they have been destroying “thousands” of contraband eggs a week.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average price of a dozen large white cage-free eggs in California is currently $5.52. While that is down from a high of $7.37 earlier this year, it is still massively higher than in years past.
The price increase has encouraged Southern California residents to cross the US-Mexico border in hopes of finding a deal on the kitchen staple. But, eggs from Mexico are prohibited from entering the United States for the same reason prices are rising: Avian Flu.
HPAI, better known as Bird or Avian Flu, has been found in 47 states across the US. In an attempt to limit the disease’s impact, farmers have culled entire flocks when a case is detected, which has led to more than 52 million birds being killed in the United States as of November 2022.
The vast majority of those birds were not infected but when one chicken or turkey in a flock has bird flu, the policy is to eliminate the entire flock.
A lower number of chickens means a lower number of eggs, hence the higher prices. And the higher prices encourage people to look outside the United States for relief. Rosie Maizuss, the chief agricultural specialist for the US Customs and Border Patrol told The Hill there are “hundreds upon hundreds of people bringing boxes. All of these eggs will be destroyed.”
The FDA determined the risk of a human contracting HPAI from eggs is low, but their study pointed to regulations and disease prevention measures the USDA and FDA put on American farmers. Eggs coming from Mexico aren’t subject to those regulatory bodies, so the eggs must be destroyed.
After being seized, the eggs are brought to a waste facility where they are sterilized and disposed of.
Travelers who declare their eggs at the border are free to leave them and continue their crossing, but if you are caught attempting to smuggle them into the country, you could face civil charges and fines.
For those waiting for egg prices to drop domestically, there is some sign of relief. According to the USDA, egg prices have fallen from their late 2022/early 2023 high, though they remain far higher than this time last year. Ultimately, egg prices will not stabilize until after the flu is eradicated. When that is, is anybody’s guess.
The last major Avian Flu outbreak in the US started in the winter of 2014, and was over by June 2015. The current outbreak also started in the winter but it managed to survive the summer months.