Officials Scramble to Beat Hard-Boiled Egg Smugglers at Mexican Border

Battling a bird flu outbreak, border agents urge the public to surrender their inexpensive Mexican eggs as California prices skyrocket

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reporting an interesting development in the unfolding narrative of increasing egg prices in California: In response to the soaring cost of the staple food item—average price lately surpassing $7 a dozenofficials are seeing a surge in attempts to smuggle eggs into the U.S. from Mexico.

The avian cabal of smugglers is reportedly responsible for a 108 percent increase in seized egg products at ports of entry from October 1 to December 31 of 2022, according to Border Report. Though smuggling uncooked eggs into the U.S. can result in penalties up to $10,000 for repeat offenders, the 59.9 percent rise in egg prices, a rate not seen since 1973, according to CNN, has only further incentivized the smuggling. Not to mention the fact that many Americans are poking fun of the effort to take the egg-smuggling-trade so seriously, as symptomatic of severely misplaced priorities.

Though the USDA has prohibited transport of eggs from Mexico since 2012, officials are insisting the severity of the issue is made all the more urgent given the record-breaking bird flu cases in the U.S. right now, the deadliest bird flu outbreak in history. As of February 1, close to 60 million poultry were stricken by the virus, with 47 states currently affected by outbreaks. And though this has contributed to the huge jump in egg prices in the U.S., in comparison to California’s $7 a dozen average, Border Report notes that a 30-count carton of eggs in Juárez, Mexico costs just $3.40. 

Los Angeles resident Hanson Car, who was stopped at the border for trying to transport two cartons of eggs, told KTLA, “We eat every day, at least two eggs. I know about the bird flu in U.S., but I did not know it has to do with Mexico.” 

Car is far from alone in his ignorance of the crackdown—but it is a massive undertaking. As Rosie Maizuss, Chief Agricultural Specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, explained, “Hundreds upon hundreds of people bringing boxes. All of these eggs will be destroyed.” 

And while there is something surreal about the image of thousands of eggs waiting in cartons at the border, biding their time until they are systematically steamed, sterilized, and destroyed, this also isn’t the first time the U.S. has had to reconcile with the dangers of agricultural smuggling. NPR reported last year that that drug cartels were getting into the lucrative trade of limes and avocados early last year, and 2021 saw Customs and Border Protection seizing close to 20,000 pounds of prohibited pork, chicken, beef, and duck at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport.

Now, however, Customs and Border Protection are urging the public to consider the bigger picture here, the one beyond safeguarding one’s breakfast. “Reducing the [bird flu] outbreak’s impact is of paramount importance,” the agency said in a statement. “Even a soiled bird cage or used egg carton could potentially spread these diseases.”

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