The dramatic rise in egg prices has not been easy for Steve Gaibler, who owns two breakfast restaurants in Longmont and Niwot.
Eggs are his number one purchase at the two Garden Gate Cafe locations, buying nearly a million eggs every year. Gaibler said he’s seen prices go up roughly 450%.
“It’s been brutal,” he said. “It costs us between my two locations probably $150,000 a year just in eggs, so it’s brutal.”
A dozen large eggs averaged $4.25 in December, according to the U.S. Price Index, up from $1.79 the year before. That leaves egg-focused restaurant owners like Gaibler with few options to make up for the large price increase.
A restaurateur since 2000, Gaibler said he’s never seen anything like this rise in egg prices.
“This has been remarkable,” he said.
Currently, Gaibler’s restaurants are using large eggs instead of extra large eggs because the larger eggs aren’t available anywhere. He plans to go back to the extra large eggs as soon as he can, as he doesn’t think the dish portions work as well without the larger eggs.
He doesn’t see reducing portion sizes as a useful solution to the increased costs.
“Pretty much the only option I have is to raise the prices,” Gaibler said. “You know, the prices end up being about 80 cents per egg, so to keep that up — if you’re going to try to keep your margins in line — you’ve got to go up a couple bucks.”
Gaibler said that while some people are blaming the new Colorado law requiring cage-free eggs, he said the problem began before the law went into place at the beginning of this year.
“A lot of people are sort of blaming the Colorado law for this and it’s been going on a lot longer than the Colorado law,” he said. “ … That’ll have an impact but it’s not nearly as big as the avian flu, which is what we’re contending with right now.”
The highly contagious avian flu, which is deadly in poultry, requires populations where it is detected to be culled to prevent further spread. Avian flu has killed about 5% of the nation’s egg-laying population, according to reports, including about 6.4 million chickens in Colorado and all of the state’s largest egg producers.
Gaibler said egg prices normally surge around Easter, which has him worried that prices could rise to five or six times the normal cost.
“This could just get worse than it is right now if it’s not corrected before the Easter surge,” he said.
He’s holding out hopes that the eggs prices will recover and his restaurants can get back to semi-normal operations. There is some good news — as of Jan. 20, egg prices have declined 52% from their high in mid-December, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.