The humble egg is one of those foods that pops up just about everywhere. Eggs are an essential ingredient in baked goods, they’re the core of a hearty breakfast (or the only component of a simple one), they give a boost to salads, they turn a burger from ho-hum to luxurious, and they form the base of countless sweet and savory sauces. An egg can be cooked in dozens, if not hundreds, of different preparations, from scrambled to shirred, from poached to in purgatory. And just like any other commodity, their price has really fluctuated over the years.
Tracking down the retail price of a dozen Grade A eggs over the decades wasn’t an easy task, as prices have varied from store to store over the years, and no supermarkets have kept track of prices for decades on end. So in order to get an annual retail price that we could stand behind, we worked with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, who provided documents from the Consumer Price Index with annual average prices for a dozen Grade A eggs dating back to 1890 (when a dozen eggs cost 21 cents, or about $5.44 today) and continuing all the way up to April 2018 ($2.08). As these are the government’s figures, compiled by visiting businesses that sell eggs and collecting price quotes on a monthly basis (not, say, ones found by leafing through old supermarket circulars), these are as close to “official” prices as we’re likely to find.
Egg prices have gone up and down over the past 80 years, but on the whole, a dozen eggs has gotten a lot less expensive than it used to be, once we adjust for inflation. In 1920, for example, a dozen eggs averaged 68 cents, a whopping $8.83 in today’s dollars. The price dropped significantly during the Great Depression and remained relatively low before topping out at 72 cents (about $7.61 today) in 1948; it then stabilized in the 55 cent range all the way up until the mid-1970s, when the price jumped up to near 80 cents (only about $3.85 today). Prices have remained quite low since then; even though plenty of pricier eggs are available (organic, free range, and the like), a dozen no-frills Grade A large eggs are still downright cheap.
“Like any commodity, the price of eggs can be impacted by a variety of supply and demand factors,” Brian Moscogiuri, a market reporter with Urner Barry, which has provided market news and analysis to clients in the egg industry since the 1850s, told us. “These include retail promotions, seasonality, production levels, exports, and dietary trends. X-factor-type events can also send shockwaves through the system. 2015’s avian influenza shortage sent prices to record highs [$2.47]. Shortly thereafter, demand destruction and flock repopulation resulted in some of the lowest markets seen in over a decade [$1.47 in 2017].”
So if you took any trips to the grocery store with your mom when you were a baby, read on to learn how much she would have paid for a dozen eggs for the years between 1937 and 2000. We’ve also provided some fun facts about milestones both culinary and otherwise for each of those years, provided by FoodReference.com. We’re most likely long past the days when a dozen eggs would set you back less than a buck, but this essential ingredient is a lot cheaper in real dollars than it used to be!