Small Businesses Take a Hit on Egg Prices

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ELK GROVE --

Shoppers can pass on buying high-priced eggs, which are averaging over $6 for a dozen at most supermarkets. But small bakery owner Terri Littleton says she doesn't have options.

The owner of Terri Does Desserts in Elk Grove, Littleton says she uses eggs in virtually everything she bakes including cakes, pies, cookies, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes.

She needs about 60 dozen a week. She started her small bake shop four years ago, parlaying a love and talent for baking into a small business.

She survived the initial jump in prices when California's law giving more cage space to egg laying chickens went into effect. But the avian flu epidemic and higher feed prices in drought-ridden California have made eggs even more expensive.

"All of a sudden, egg prices doubled and then they went up some more ... then they started getting hard to find in bulk like we buy them," Littleton said.

Her weekly egg bill went from $100 a week to nearly $400 a week. That's when she can get them because it's first come, first serve for some suppliers. Littleton likes to use liquid egg yolks in some recipes.

"Yesterday is the first time I've had egg yolks in two months," Littleton said.

Littleton says raising prices is a tough proposition for businesses that work on a small budget, and changing recipes might even be more harmful.

She went through a similar crisis last year when butter prices almost tripled before stabilizing. Littleton hopes egg prices will come down before November because the holidays is the busiest time of year.

Suppliers have told her that replacement birds for those destroyed by the avian flu might come into full egg production by then.

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