It's all about supply and demand
There are a lot of good reasons to buy cage-free eggs: Chickens allowed to roam in a cage-free environment enjoy better lives, and many argue that eggs born from these hens actually taste better, too. The one drawback? They're also a lot more expensive. Back in 2015, McDonald's and other big-food brands demanded their egg suppliers switch over to cage-free systems, lest they lose their business. Of course, farmers complied. And now, Buzzfeed reports, there are more cage-free eggs on the market than consumers are willing to buy, because they cost more than conventional eggs.
Cage-free eggs sell for between $1.25 and $1.50 more than battery eggs, Buzzfeed says. And with egg prices dropping across the board—you can buy a dozen for less than $1 at some stores—customers don't want to cough up the extra dough for cage-free.
"Right now, there is a much greater demand for commodity eggs at these low prices than there is for cage-free eggs," according to Dolph Baker, CEO of Cal-Maine Foods, which is the largest producer of eggs sold in the US, Buzzfeed reports. In response, Cal-Maine has taken steps to reduce its oversupply of cage-free eggs, such as shutting down production. And other industry insiders have said some six to eight million hens would have to be "reduced" to get back in line with demand, the site reports.
Consumers aren't solely to blame for this oversupply issue, however. Also in 2015, the egg industry faced an avian influenza outbreak that killed about 40 million hens, and eggs prices, of course, rose to a pretty (high) penny. To make up for their losses, suppliers started importing eggs, while farmers rushed to produce more to meet the cage-free demand. Fast-forward a couple years, and here were are: too many eggs on the market, and too few people willing to buy the most expensive kind.
This story originally appeared on Foodandwine.com.