Eggs poultry inflation customs
Photo courtest U.S. Food and Drug Administration

California families are already living paycheck to paycheck and the rising cost of groceries is a harsh reality that’s pushing many further into financial insecurity. Unfortunately, this burden has only grown for those who rely on eggs as an affordable and versatile source of protein — with Proposition 12 to blame.

Passed by voters, Prop. 12 is California’s animal housing law that requires that egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves be housed in a specific type of living space. For eggs, the law recently went into effect and is now having a significant impact on price and availability. In fact, it’s been reported that eggs have skyrocketed to $7 a dozen for consumers who can find them at all.

Indeed, last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that egg prices have increased a shocking 150% since last January.  Yet this is not the worst of it and it’s why the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce has been sounding the alarm. 

This is why we joined with the California Restaurant Association, California Grocers Association, California Retailers Association and a family food processor in a lawsuit asking the Sacramento Superior Court to delay the implementation of Prop. 12 until July 1, 2023. As we’ve warned in our lawsuit, Prop. 12 disproportionately impacts our most-vulnerable Californians who likely cannot afford rising food prices on basic staples like eggs and pork.

As it stands now, overall food prices are higher than ever before and are already hitting our most vulnerable and neediest populations. According to Congressional Research Service in its report on U.S. Food Price Inflation and Agriculture Policy, food price inflation has accelerated in 2022, experiencing the largest 12-month increase between April 2021 and April 2022 since 1981.

Additionally, a recent Feeding America listening initiative titled Elevating Voices to End Hunger Together gathered input from 36,000 individuals across all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, and found that 75% of survey respondents report making big trade-offs — impossible choices — to afford food.

Wealthy tech billionaires and anti-meat advocates pushing for everyone to live on a plant-based diet are those behind Prop. 12 and have dismissed the egg crisis as nothing more than a minor inconvenience — a short-sided view of those who can likely afford designer eggs and pork. Meanwhile, struggling and hard-working families are the ones left empty in the grocery aisle. 

This is why the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce joined the Food Equity Alliance, a statewide coalition of California grocery stores, restaurants, business organizations, food processors, and food equity advocates. We’re advocating for common-sense policies on this issue that help working-families put affordable food on the table. 

While the animal housing laws were well-intentioned, their unintended consequences are far-reaching. The price of eggs has soared, and the supply has dwindled, leaving many families, especially low-income households, struggling to make ends meet. This difficult situation forces families to choose between buying food or other essential expenses. 

At a time when it’s never been more expensive to live in California, we need to find ways to make delicious foods such as bacon, eggs and pork carnitas readily available for all — not just those who can afford exotic premium priced foods. 

Julian Cañete is president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and a member of the Food Equity Alliance.