NY Shelters Get 1 Million Easter Eggs in Price-Gouging Settlement

Heading into Easter weekend, a major egg supplier accused of pandemic price gouging will donate 100,000 cartons of eggs to New York food banks.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and colleagues make an egg drop at a Harlem food bank on Thursday, April 1. (Letitia James/Twitter via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — New Yorkers in need are getting an early visit this year from an unlikely Easter Bunny: Attorney General Letitia James. 

James announced Thursday that egg supplier Hillandale Farms will donate 1.2 million eggs to shelters, pantries and soup kitchens across the state, following her suit accusing the company of hiking up egg prices during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Hillandale, a company based in Ohio and Pennsylvania, is one of several companies named in a separate class action, and James says it bumped up the cost of eggs nearly fivefold in some cases during the early days of. the pandemic. 

In one glaring example cited in the petition, the company increased what it charged supermarket chain Western Beef on March 15 of last year, two days after the novel coronavirus was declared a national emergency. 

By March 29, after a few more price hikes, Hillandale was charging $2.93 for a dozen large white eggs — a product that had cost $.59 in January 2020 — according to the 17-page petition. 

A graph in New York state’s petition against Hillandale Farms shows the jump in prices it charged supermarket company Western Beef. (NY AG’s office via Couthouse News)

The suit alleged similar pricing schemes on eggs sold to Stop & Shop, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Associated Supermarkets, and at the commissary stores at several U.S. military bases. 

James says Hillandale made millions of dollars over just two months by unlawfully increasing the price of eggs, many of them sold in grocery stores in low-income communities.

“As New Yorkers scrambled to stock up on food, one of the nation’s largest egg producers raised prices to unprecedented levels and made it harder for New Yorkers to feed their families,” James said in a pun-laced statement Thursday. 

“Hillandale may have run afoul of our state’s price gouging laws and hatched a plan that targeted our state’s most vulnerable in its darkest hour, but, today, we’re delivering 1.2 million eggs to feed hungry New Yorkers and make things right.”

Hillandale Farms did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. When the suit was filed last year, the company denied that it gouged prices, saying that historically, eggs “have been subject to volatile pricing.” 

Prices in August 2020, the company said at the time, were below what they were in August 2019, and “well below what they were in January through March 2019.”

“But our approach to pricing has been consistent for decades,” the company continued, “and without complaint, whether that has led to profits or losses, and the last several months have been no exception.”

Now, 100,000 cartons of Hillandale’s eggs are headed to food banks throughout New York state, then to be distributed to thousands of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

The egg drop began on Holy Thursday, days before Americans will celebrate a second unusual Easter Sunday as Covid-19 continues to hinder opportunities for families and friends to gather in person. 

Thursday morning, James and colleagues hopped over to the Food Bank For New York City in Harlem to deliver 500,000 eggs to city residents. 

State government representatives in Harlem applauded the Easter egg delivery in their community. 

“Access to food, especially during a public health crisis, is extremely important,” state Senator Brian Benjamin said in a statement. “In my home district of Harlem, where so many are struggling to provide for their families every day, we cannot allow big corporations to profit by taking advantage of a crisis.” 

The seasonal timing was not lost on Benjamin, who said, “I am glad to see the Community Kitchen of Harlem receiving these eggs just in time for Easter.”

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