Why Cheap Eggs Are So Expensive

At Pete and Gerry’s, our eggs cost a little more than conventional eggs. We don’t apologize for this. In fact, we’re proud of it. We’re proud of producing a great product in a way that is both beneficial and sustainable.

Consider the alternative. Over the course of this past spring, roughly 48 million chickens & turkeys had to be put to death during the Avian Influenza outbreak. In Iowa alone, 24 million hens, or 40% of the egg laying population, were hauled to landfills, buried, or burned. That’s because if a single bird within their massive warehouse enclosures (aka “barns”) contracts the disease, all other birds that could have conceivably come into contact with it have to be put down to contain the spread. So that might mean 5 million birds on a single “farm” are lost all at once.

The loss represented almost 20% of the laying hens in the U.S. This meant an immediate and dramatic increase in the price of conventional, caged-raised eggs that continues to this day. And that wasn’t the only way consumers paid. Several counties in Iowa were declared disaster areas, so taxpayers there were also forced to bail out the huge corporations that make up the agricultural industry in Iowa. Governor Branstad of Iowa also requested federal relief funds but was denied by the Obama administration. Still, the USDA has paid $191 Million in direct payments to farm corporations for their losses already.

This raises the question, how much do eggs really cost? In the store, they might retail for as little as 2 dollars a dozen. That’s because these “farms” have tried to make farming like building widgets. They have created mega factories, scaled up as much as possible, built an assembly line of sorts, systematically eliminated human intervention, creature comfort, or any other detail that could have a small cost associated with it, and built an egg producing machine that can put a carton of eggs on the shelf for 2 bucks, and still leave a tidy profit for the shareholders.

There are two really big problems with this model. One, chickens aren’t widgets. They are living, breathing, thinking animals. So this system that reduces them to egg-laying cogs is cruel beyond belief (and that is probably the best reason not to patronize these companies). The second problem is a systemic one. The scheme has little tolerance. If one bird on a single mega farm gets sick, that means destroying millions of hens, which immediately drives up prices, not to mention requests for government aid. The system is so inhumanely narrow in its construction; it’s just one big house of cards.

The public also bears other costs of giant agricultural operations in terms of waste ponds (giant manure filled puddles that frequently leach into ground water and surface water), the overpowering smells generated by these places, and many other forms of pollution that would not occur with human-scale farming. A study cited 8,400 jobs lost in Iowa as fallout from the epidemic. That means more unemployment claims and a variety of other societal costs. The Des Moines Register estimates the outbreak cost the Iowa economy $1.2B. Figures for the country as a whole are $3.3B.

At Pete and Gerry’s, our small family farms have yet to lose a single hen to Avian Flu. Some of that is due to our careful safety protocols, the close eye our farmers keep on their flocks, and some of it is just luck. But even if we did lose a flock, our egg production is spread out over forty small family farms, each with just a barn or two on their property. None of our partner farms represent more than 3% of our capacity. This humane, distributed method of farming is ultimately a better value for consumers when one carefully considers all the costs.

double yolk shot

Egg Yolks – Two for the Price of One

Have you ever cracked into an egg with a double yolk? Lucky you! Ever cracked into several eggs in your dozen to find double yolks in more than one? A fan did recently, and he wrote to us in amazement to find out why. Here’s what we shared:

Double yolks are fairly rare – you might find them in 1 of every 1,000 eggs. These eggs typically come from our youngest hens, still just learning how to lay eggs.

Double yolked eggs also tend to be very large. They are usually graded ‘Super Jumbo.’ Eggs identified as Super Jumbo are too large for our packing machine to pack into cartons, so they are moved to the hand packing station. At Pete & Gerry’s, these eggs are still labeled as Jumbos, even though they are technically Super Jumbos. As our team fills Jumbo egg cartons with the Super Jumbo eggs, of which more than 50% of which will include an extra yolk, that makes something fairly rare in nature suddenly appear rather common.

So if you crack open a Pete & Gerry’s egg and find a double yolk, you’ll actually be pretty likely to find another ‘eggstra’ yolk or two in that same dozen. And because those cartons are hand packed and placed in cases together, you could find a whole grocery display of Jumbo dozens that have a high likelihood of containing a double yolked egg or two!

Heart shaped egg blue plate

Good News for Good Food

For many years, eggs were considered a cholesterol-packed villain in the story of you versus heart disease, and many people erroneously limited – or altogether avoided – eggs as a part of their regular heart healthy diet.

Now a report from a panel of U.S. nutrition and medical experts is debunking that myth for good. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a federal publication that has far-reaching impact on our food choices, announced “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” Meaning, eggs can shake off the bad reputation and be recognized as a nutritious and convenient part of your healthy, well-balanced diet.

And there’s more! According to CNN, the report also identifies under-consumed “shortfall nutrients,” including vitamins A, D, and E, as well as folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. You can find all of these nutrients and a slew of others in – you guessed it – EGGS!  To read the complete article from CNN, click here: “Cholesterol in food not a concern, new report says

So go ahead. Crack in to our eggs for breakfast, for dinner, or anytime. They’re good for you!

To read more about the nutritional benefits of eggs for you and your family, click here

Farmers & Partners

Focusing on Profitable Partnerships

Recently, chickens have been in the news, and not always for great reasons, such as with bird flu and the attention inhumane practices have received after California passed Proposition 2, forbidding the use of battery cages for producing eggs.

Another news story about chickens that we’ve noticed is about farmers who work under contract for big meat poultry companies. The arrangement works like this: the farmer owns the land, structures and equipment. The poultry company sends them chickens and the feed necessary to raise them. The problem comes when the company continually demands that they modify their facilities in various expensive ways, but do not support that with higher payments to the farmers. Furthermore, they apply a “tournament system” whereby if your birds don’t grow as fat on the same feed as a neighboring contract farm, your payments will be cut and you can even be terminated as a contractor with little notice. Finally, if a farmer requests a change to their facility to improve the quality of life for the birds, they will often be told no and can be subject to additional sanctions, inspections, or pay cuts. This is a fairly ruthless, but still quite common, course of business in the industry.

Pete & Gerry’s also works with independent, small family farms to produce our eggs. But there are some very significant differences with how we do business with our farmer partners.

First of all, our farmers are partners, in every sense of the word. They are offered guaranteed prices to follow the strict guidelines for Certified Humane farming.

Second, we do not use a tournament system to constantly weed out our less efficient farmers. Instead we sign long-term contracts and do not penalize them for production issues that are not in their control, and will instead lend them a hand. We send our farm technicians to their homes to help them with issues that affect production like lighting, airflow, and temperature in the barn. We never pressure them to increase production by doing something that impairs the welfare of the hens, or the family that tends to them.

Third, instead of cutting corners, we continually work to improve conditions, such as our recent accomplishment of getting 100% of our farm partners on a Certified Humane Free Range standard. This is the opposite of the approach some of these other companies take. We are a Certified B-Corp, which means that we seek to meet a triple bottom line of financial, social welfare and environmental standards.

In the past decade of farming under our current partnership system, we have never terminated a farmer for poor financial performance and we have never had a farmer sue us, or leave us because they were unhappy with the partnership. That’s something we’re very proud of.


Bird Flu Remains a Concern

This is an update on the Avian Influenza (AI) Outbreak of 2015. For those that are just catching up to this story, this is perhaps the worst episode of AI in U.S history and certainly in the past ten years. Millions of hens, primarily in the Midwest and West, have had to be destroyed to stem the spread of the disease. AI, or “Bird Flu” is carried by migrating flocks of wild fowl like ducks and geese. It is not harmful to them, but it is deadly to domestic chickens and turkeys. The wild birds spread it by landing on, or near, farms, and then they can spread the virus to hens, even to those confined in cages in big agricultural facilities. Only about 10% of hens in the U.S. have actual access to the outdoors like ours, yet the other 90% of industrial caged facilities have been some of the hardest hit. One facility in Iowa had to destroy over 5 million birds. No one is exactly sure about all the ways that it may spread. Theories range from careless workers who carry the virus in on their shoes or clothing as they enter an enclosure to pond water that is infected and then used for the birds to drink. Conventional egg prices have skyrocketed as a result of the loss of over 40 million laying hens in the U.S. this year.

At Pete & Gerry’s Organics, we have yet to lose a single bird to AI. There are probably several reasons for this:

  • Our small family farms are primarily on the East Coast and the heart of the outbreak has come via the Mississippi River Flyway migration route.
  • Our farmers are small, family business owners who are in their barns every day and follow a very rigid biological safety protocol.
  • During the worst months of the outbreak we kept our free range hens in their still quite comfortable and roomy barns as advised by the USDA and Humane Farm Animal Care, our certification agency on humane standards.
  • Some good luck.

Caution remains the order of the day going forward. Cooler weather in the fall, combined with the return migration of wild fowl over farm areas, could very well lead to new outbreaks. So while we have been able to let our girls out a bit in the summer sunshine during July and August, we will continue to be extremely vigilant about following all safety guidelines until we are certain that the risk has passed. Hopefully, that will be next spring, but none of the experts are quite sure yet what we’re dealing with, given how severe the current outbreak has been.

Why the Move to Free Range?

Perhaps you have noticed that our packages now say “Free Range” instead of “Cage Free” on them? And you have wondered, why the change? And what’s the difference?

Unfortunately, definitions for humane animal care can be a little confusing, even to us at times. But here’s a simplified guide:

Bad: Caged Eggs. Unless they say otherwise, chances are the eggs you eat are caged (still 90% in the U.S.). These are horrific both for hens and for people, and should be banned, as they have been in Europe.

Better: Cage Free. This is an improvement for certain. But some former caged producers are simply converting their “farms” (i.e. egg factories) to “cage free” by meeting the bare minimum of the standard. In no way do these facilities resemble farms as they still pack tens of thousands of birds together in small confined spaces (including big cages, believe it or not) and feeding the hens antibiotics to ward off the inevitable disease spreading. So “Cage Free” isn’t quite as humane or healthy as it should be in many cases.

Better Still: Free Range. This means hens do have some access to the outdoors. It may not be easy to find the door, and the outdoors may not mean access to anything more than a small concrete porch, but its another step in the right direction.

Best: Certified Humane Free Range, which is what all Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs are. That means that the independent, non-profit, widely respected Humane Farm Animal Care organization has audited our operation to certify that we meet their robust standard for free range. That means real access to grass, food and water when the hens want it, ability for them to engage in natural behaviors like roosting, dust bathing being social with each other, and much more.

Becoming 100% Certified Humane Free Range is the completion of a path we have been on for a number of years and we were proud to recently get 100% of our small family farmer partners to achieve every element of this rigorous standard. That’s why we made the name change.

Free Range

Pete & Gerry’s Free Range Hens

Why Are Eggs Getting So Expensive?

If you noticed a sharp increase in the price of eggs recently, you’re not alone. Across the country prices for “conventional eggs” i.e. those produced at the lowest possible cost and with the greatest possible inhumanity to hens and people, are skyrocketing. Why? Avian Influenza, or bird flu, is the reason. The disease can spread from wild fowl on their spring migration to domestic agricultural operations. And because these birds live in such densely packed, dirty, inhumane environments, the producers have no choice but to destroy the entire population at that operation once they have a single identified infection – that can mean millions of birds on a single “farm” are lost at once. The result is that over 47 million birds have been put to death since the outbreak started, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch on June 18th.

Here’s the point. These cheap agricultural systems are risky and unsustainable. They only work, until they don’t. Then they shift huge costs and externalities to the communities that host them and to the consumers who buy their products.


At Pete & Gerry’s, we are not immune to Bird Flu, nor the need to raise prices at times when our costs increase; but because we farm responsibly year in and year out, our small farms, caring farmers, and humanely raised hens have a far better chance of avoiding this epidemic and other health risks like Salmonella over time. In fact, we’ve never had a single outbreak of either in our history. It costs more for us to farm this way. But it also means we don’t have to raise prices as often, or as sharply, when something goes wrong. We provide a far more sustainable and predictable price by being responsible caring farmers.

Update on Avian Influenza


We’ve had a few questions about the situation at our farms, so we figured it’s time for an update.  So far, we have not had any Avian Influenza (AI) at our small family farms. However, factory farms in the Midwest continue to suffer setbacks. Even if only one hen tests positive for AI, they must destroy all hens on site. This has caused the loss of over 5 million hens at one time in Iowa. So, in total we have seen over 10% of the laying hen population destroyed in the U.S. We are by no means immune from Avian Influenza, but we do have a few things going for us:

1. Small Family Farmers: We believe that each of our small family farmers are the best possible stewards for the hens. Because they typically live at the same place as their hens, they can maintain strict control over who visits the farm and ensure that all of our safety precautions are being implemented. They aren’t simply an employee at an egg factory. This is their livelihood and they care deeply about the health of their flocks.

2. Small Scale Production: Each of our small family farms represents a very small percentage of our overall production and they are not very close to each other. So, even if one were to suffer an AI outbreak, it should not catastrophically damage our overall supply.

3. Geography: Our hens are located in the Northeastern U.S. which so far has not had any AI outbreaks. The outbreaks have primarily been in the Midwest (Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska) along a migratory bird path called the Mississippi Flyway. Migratory activity should be slowing down now until later in the year when we will have to be especially careful with migration along the East Coast.

4. Proactive Precautions: Our family farms have been very proactive with the AI outbreak. We decided quickly to move all of our Free Range hens indoors because of the disease threat. Both USDA and Certified Humane have recommended this practice for Free Range birds due to the severity of the outbreak. While we hate keeping our hens indoors when they’d normally be outside playing on the grass, we feel it’s the right thing to do to keep them happy and healthy during these extraordinary times. To make the best of the situation, we have been putting fresh, organic hay inside the barns.

Hopefully this answers your questions. Thanks for staying tuned in and supporting our small family farms!

Our Precautions For Avian Influenza


At Pete and Gerry’s we are proud to go above and beyond USDA Organic and Certified Humane requirements.  If you don’t know about Certified Humane, its a designation administered by Humane Farm Animal Care, a non-profit, third party, to those meeting their strict animal welfare guidelines.  One of the ways we exceed those standards is by providing all of our hens with outdoor access on green grass.  In fact, Certified Humane is currently in the process of certifying all of our small family farms to their Free Range standard.

If you have been following the news recently, you may have heard about a particularly virulent strain of Avian Influenza which has infected numerous commercial turkey flocks in the Midwest.  Yesterday, this outbreak took a turn for the worse when a 5.3 million caged hen laying operation was infected and subsequently destroyed (yet another argument in favor of family-scale farming).  You can read more about this here.  The Center for Disease control considers the risk to people from these infections to be low and no human infections have been detected.  However, the disease does pose significant risk to poultry.

Because we never use antibiotics we currently practice very strict biosecurity measures to prevent diseases from infecting our flocks.  Due to this outbreak, we are taking extra precautions at all of our small family farms.  Unfortunately, one of these precautions is that we will not let our hens outdoors until the threat from Avian Influenza subsides.  Because this disease is spread through wild birds and waterfowl, we feel that keeping our hens inside is the best way to protect them.  USDA and Certified Humane both authorize these precautions due to the current situation.

Like you, we believe that the best eggs come from organic, Certified Humane small family farms where the hens spend their days outside on grass.  So, when we need to stray from that we feel it’s best to be open and transparent.  We’ll let you know as soon as the situation improves.  Thanks!

What We’re Thankful For


Farmers don’t get much downtime to sit back and reflect on their blessings – so we’re grateful for the opportunity Thanksgiving gives the four generations of our family to be together, from Great-Grandpa Les to great-grandkids Piper and Brock.

Even more of a blessing, we’re able to do it on the same farm our family has owned since the late 1800s. We know it’s a privilege fewer and fewer farm families have these days; as we savor it, we renew our pledge to only do business with small-scale farmers who are committed to the welfare of their hens and to wise stewardship of their land.

We’re thankful that back in the not-so-long-ago 1980s, Carol, Gerry, and Pete had the  to convert to cage-free, organic egg farming. As they saw farms around them pushed out of business by huge-scale factory egg farms, it looked like a huge risk.

In the 30+ years that followed, we’ve brought over 30 farm families to work with us—and we’ve seen the natural and organic food movement grow from a fringe category to the fastest-growing sector of the American food marketplace. There have been good times and bad, but we’re thankful that our decision to work only with good people has always seen us through.

We’re thankful for our beautiful, healthy and happy hens….

For the good people who care for them and bring you their eggs…

And for you, who choose to buy our eggs. You’re voting with your fork for good food, in every sense of the word.

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!