Bay Area scrambles to find elusive eggs as avian flu throttles supplies
Joe Warne of San Francisco took one look at the empty shelves Saturday and said, “No weird eggs!”
Not at the Safeway on Monterey Boulevard where Warne hoped to find them, nor at the Trader Joe’s on nearby Winston Drive.
“That’s crazy!” Meghan Berry said as she looked at the barren counters at Trader Joe’s where the eggs were supposed to be. She had hoped to stock up after returning from a vacation trip to Missouri and Florida. But what lay before her were only several open cardboard boxes, painted with cracked contents.
In fact, customers all over California are scrambling to find eggs, and the problem has gotten worse in the last week or so. It’s like they’ve all been poached.
Meghan Berry of San Francisco was hoping to stock up on eggs at the Trader Joe’s on Winston Dr. There is no such luck.
“Due to the nationwide egg shortage and to support all customers, we are limiting egg purchases to 2 cartons per customer,” said a notice at the Whole Foods on 20th Avenue in San Francisco. The store had cartons for sale, but the shelves looked like an underfilled omelette, dotted with empty spots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that nearly every state was hit by at least one bird flu outbreak throughout the year, with hundreds of cases affecting nearly 58 million wild and domestic birds.
On Saturday, representatives from Whole Foods, Safeway and Trader Joe’s did not return requests for comment.
In San Francisco, a Trader Joe’s customer named Tom stared at the empty shelves like a chicken at feeding time. A reporter said bird flu was the apparent cause of the egg shortage, but Tom called that an exaggeration.
In fact, he said, “it’s an excuse to kill chickens.”
Why do chicken farmers want to kill their chickens?
“That’s the trillion dollar question,” said Tom, declining to give his last name “because of the political situation.” He compared the egg shortage to the war in Ukraine and the pandemic. His girlfriend gave him a glance indicating it was time to go.
“We wanted to buy eggs,” Tom added, looking longingly at the sign advertising extra-large, cage-free eggs for $3.99. “I’ll probably go to Whole Foods, where the price will be triple.”
Not enough. They were $10.49.
Gian Lopez of Daly City loaded the two allowed cardboard boxes into a cart.
“Eggs”, he explained, “are part of a healthy diet”.
Whole Foods on 20th Avenue in San Francisco is limiting egg sales to two cartons per customer.
But Lopez wasn’t ready to dwell on the absence. “Things happen,” he shrugged. “They will eventually come back and do it right. That’s their job.”
It was not clear whether he meant the farmers or the chickens.
At Safeway, Melissa Le Biavaant of San Francisco said she and her husband enjoy eating eggs for breakfast, and she’s been tripped up twice recently trying to buy them.
It’s not only inconvenient, she said, but scary when you consider bird flu. “Makes me want to get my chickens.”
Whole Foods, on 20th Avenue in San Francisco, is limiting egg sales to two cartons per customer.
Most stores, including Safeway, had egg substitutes for sale, such as “Just Egg.” The yellow container said it was “made from plants”. Its ingredients include mung bean protein isolate, explorator-pressed canola oil, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, salt and sugar.
Warne, who had been shopping for a late morning, said he wouldn’t give a dime for that item.
“Fake eggs? No, thank you,” he said. “I think I’ll just have some wine, instead.”
Nanette Asimov is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]