New bill could lower egg prices by allowing local farmers to sell eggs to restaurants

Feb 27, 2023, 9:25 PM
FILE - Red Star chickens feed in their coop, Jan. 10, 2023, at Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview, Il...
FILE - Red Star chickens feed in their coop, Jan. 10, 2023, at Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview, Ill. The ongoing bird flu outbreak has cost the U.S. government roughly $661 million and added to consumers' pain at the grocery store after more than 58 million birds were slaughtered to limit the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)
(AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill looks to bring egg prices out of the clouds by letting local farms sell restaurants their eggs.

County health departments have blocked restaurants from getting their eggs from smaller Utah farms. The reason is a law passed three years ago that left rules vague for local health officials.

Sponsor of H.B. 523, Rep. Ryan Wilcox (R-Ogden) says his bill would allow farms with less than 3,000 chickens to bring their eggs to market.

“What this bill does is clarify,” he says. “These [eggs] will be approved unless the health department is able to identify a problem with the eggs. If they are, then we don’t want them in the food supply either. But if they’re not, then it’s, really, already our policy that they (restaurants) can buy from our local suppliers.

This new bill would clarify that the only reason to stop an egg is if it has mold or other defects. The bill could also lower business costs.

Egg prices, we’re not out of the woods yet

A dozen eggs cost $4.80 on average in the U.S. That’s more than double the price from last January.

A local egg producer says we’re not out of the woods with egg prices yet. Oakdell Farms President Cliff Lillywhite puts the blame on a national problem.

“We’re affected by what’s happening nationwide,” he says. “About 45 million laying hens have been infected with bird flu. We lost an entire farm in Cache Valley with a little over a million birds. It obviously has impacted us and the state. We’re well on our way back to that, but nationwide, it’s still a big issue.”

Lillywhite adds that the war in Ukraine has raised chicken feed prices and costs from labor to transportation continue to rise.

Though the bill could lower business costs, Lillywhite says he has one concern with it.

“It does not require the same control at a small producer level than it does at a large producer level. To not just control the bird flu, but particularly to control food safety items,” he says.

Devin Oldroyd contributed to this story.

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New bill could lower egg prices by allowing local farmers to sell eggs to restaurants