LEWISTON – Egg prices jumped when COVID-19 scared everyone into panic buying eggs. The price of eggs was at an all-time high in March, but Cliff Lillywhite, one of the owners of Oakdale Eggs, said the price is coming down fast.
Oakdell Eggs and sister company Ritewood Eggs are a large contributor of eggs to 11 states in the West. And the two companies’ economic forces at the north end of Cache Valley employ nearly 200 people.
Lillywhite said the jump in prices was due to the high demand when the virus started to heat up
The company couldn’t produce enough eggs for the demand so they looked at other options.
“It’s not like you can go out and tell your chickens to produce more,” he said. “We had to go out and buy eggs on the open market.”
He said even at $3 a dozen eggs are a good buy. That comes to $.50 an egg. Not only are they a good source of inexpensive protein they are a good source of other vitamins and minerals.
“Where else can you get all the nutrition and protein for $.50?” he asked.
The high prices were simple ag economics.
“Supply and demand drives everything and outside forces can change things in a hurry,” Lillywhite said. “It makes agriculture as risky as gambling in Las Vegas. We have to sell the eggs in 30 to 45 days or smell them.”
Oakdell and Ritewood Eggs are two separate companies owned by the same family. Ritewood in Franklin, ID is the only commercial shell egg producer in the state of Idaho.
Between the two companies, there are three production facilities: one in Lewiston, another one in Franklin, and then the one in Pasco, Washington.
“All our eggs are from cage free chickens,” he said. “We have the traditional white, organic brown, brown and white, and Omega 3 eggs.”
The company also sells bagged organic fertilizer.
“We are selling a lot of fertilizer this year,” he said. “Sales are up 500 percent for garden compost.”
The beginning of the business goes back to 1905 when Dave and Mark’s father Cecil and grandmother Bertha received 10 chickens as a wedding gift.
Earlier this year, Ritewood Eggs was named business of the year by the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food census data showed in 2018, Utah produced 1.5 billion eggs, the most ever according to statewide agriculture census data.
The Beehive State is one of only a handful of states that produce more eggs than are needed locally and exports them to neighboring states and internationally, as far away as Mexico and China.
Egg production has grown over the years and contributes an estimated $75 million to the state’s economy.