New Washington cage-free egg law takes toll on bakeries

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Shoppers are noticing eggs have become more expensive at Washington State grocery stores. That’s because of a new law that just took effect in 2024 that requires retailers to only sell cage-free eggs. The law was originally passed in 2019.

But for people on a budget, it just means another hit to the wallet.

The change is also taking a toll on some small businesses, like bakeries.

Mariana’s Panaderia and Bakery in Everett uses about 600 eggs every day.

“It’s a lot of eggs,” said Jose Salgado, who owns the bakery with his wife.

They opened up shop in 2021.

He said he noticed a big spike in egg prices between December and January.

“In December we were paying like around $40 a case,” Salgado said. “And right after New Years it went up to $60.”

A Washington State law that passed in 2019 said by January 1, 2024, retailers “must include proof that all eggs and egg products provided in intrastate commerce” follow ‘guidelines for cage-free housing.’

So now, walk into any grocery store statewide, and you’ll see only eggs that are at least cage-free.

Prior to the change, the cheapest egg price commonly seen in Western Washington was about $1.99. Now that’s also jumped up 50%, to $2.99.

Some people say they’re sick of rising prices.

“I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, it’s getting a little tough,” said Lynnwood shopper Connor Hach. “It’s hard to leave the house and not spend $100 nowadays.”

For businesses like Mariana’s Panaderia and Bakery, the sudden 50% price hike on eggs is difficult.

“Our margin is always so little,” Salgado said. “And with these prices it’s hard. We cannot substitute eggs.”

Right now they’re working to make sure nothing gets wasted but worry they’ll have to raise prices – and are concerned about losing customers.

“If we have to raise the prices it’s going to be very little because people won’t buy,” Salgado said.

The USDA said the average American ate 279 eggs per year in 2022, with a projection of that increasing to 285 eggs in 2023.

For a family of four buying the least expensive eggs, assuming the $1 price hike per carton KIRO 7 saw, that will add up to nearly $100 dollars a year in extra egg costs.

The new law requires hens to have at least 116 square inches of space – which is still less than one square foot – as well as access to areas for nesting, scratching, and perching.