At the end of January, as America’s egg shortage deepened, news broke that U.S. Border Patrol agents had been seizing record amounts of eggs from travelers passing into the United States from Mexico. Between Oct. 1, 2022, and Dec. 31, 2022, U.S. customs reported a 108 percent increase in seizures of eggs and poultry. Is it any wonder, with prices so much lower in Juárez, Mexico, that enterprising Mexicans might risk a hefty fine to resell a few boxes in Texas for a tasty profit? The real question is whether the cartels, which have long been in the business of diversification, will soon muscle in on the action. Chances are they will.
According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, egg prices have increased by 60 percent in the past year, and that’s on top of the significant rises from the previous year and the year before that. Although inflation has left no commodity untouched, no other food has been subject to quite as vertiginous a rise as eggs.
Inflation today is about much more, however, than just the increasing amounts of money you have to spend to get eggs or any of the other foods you want. Inflation is being weaponized to drive a permanent food transformation the likes of which the world has never seen and that will principally benefit the corporate players that already control so much of the global food supply.
For now, we must leave to one side the question of whether inflation is being made worse deliberately, even if we can’t shake our suspicions that it is. While food-price inflation is clearly an ongoing result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sweeping economic problems it has brought in its wake, in the case of eggs, it has been made much worse by recent outbreaks of avian flu, which have resulted in massive culls. Price gouging is almost certainly taking place, as large egg producers exploit the reduction in laying birds to drive prices even higher, but much more worrying is the continuing spate of disasters at chicken farms throughout the United States. Just a week or so ago, a massive Hillandale Farms chicken facility went up in smoke in Bozrah, Connecticut, killing more than 100,000 hens.
It’s not only chickens, either: Hundreds of mysterious disasters have befallen farms and food-processing facilities in the past three years. Although a few commentators, including Tucker Carlson, have done their best to bring this to public attention, the federal government seems uninterested in the possibility that these are anything other than acts of God.
Suspicion is raised further when we see the pattern repeated in other countries, such as New Zealand, where 75,000 hens at the nation’s largest egg producer were killed in a fire recently—again amid a deepening egg shortage. But like I said, we can’t be sure without proper investigation. At the very least, it would be nice to know how frequently such incidents occurred in the past.
What kind of agenda would be served if animal products, including eggs, become more and more expensive so that people buy less and less of them? The obvious answer is the climate change agenda, pushing the series of dramatic alterations to our ordinary lives to ensure that our nations meet their emissions targets under agreements such as the Paris Agreement. In order to save the planet, we’re told, everyone must stop consuming traditional animal products and instead consume foods that humans have only ever eaten in minimal quantities or that have never even existed until now. Soy, plant-based “meats” and “milks,” lab-grown “meat”—insects, even.
This fundamental change to the way we eat will be built on a fundamental change to the way food is produced. Corporations, which already dominate the food supply, will come to control it totally, since they’ll own the technologies needed to produce these new foods, whether we’re talking about new genetically modified high-yield varieties of wheat and other grains and legumes or the laboratory processes behind 3D-printing a piece of “meat.” What corporations like about these products is precisely the fact that they can be owned in ways traditional products, such as beef and milk, simply can’t.
Corporate control won’t stop at food, however, but will extend to more or less every aspect of our lives in this new hyper-connected, carbon-neutral world. This vision of a world transformed by “stakeholder capitalism” and the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” has been dubbed the “Great Reset” by its architects, including the World Economic Forum and its founder, Klaus Schwab.
That our elites—the people who are pushing us toward the Great Reset—see inflation as playing a key role in changing our diets, was made explicit in an op-ed published in The New York Times last summer. “So you want to buy meat? In this economy?” asks its author, Annaliese Griffin. She describes how “historically, cost has been a powerful force that has changed Americans’ diets.” As things were, so can they be again: With climate change, “inflation has the potential to drive welcome change for the planet if Americans think differently about the way they eat.” Of course, that “welcome change” means giving up meat and animal products.
It’s worth noting, too, that Griffin praised the Lever Act, a long-forgotten law passed after America’s entry into World War I. The Lever Act allowed the federal government to requisition food in a wartime situation, so as to prevent hoarding. The implication is that we could even see new laws to steer us in the right direction, and soon.
While it might seem far-fetched to suggest that the government will somehow intervene to make us eat less meat or even prevent us from eating it, the British government has been touting a “meat tax” for some time—and after the events of the past three years, “far-fetched” is a phrase that’s lost much, if not all, of its meaning.
It’s certainly clear that new plant-based foods, including so-called plant-based meats and alternative proteins such as lab-grown meats and insects, are going to need some kind of extra push to get us all eating them. The dismal performance of companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible, two of the highest-profile players in “plant-based meats,” shows how little taste the public at large has for these products. Both companies have laid off about a fifth of their workforces over the past year amid news that “refrigerated meat alternatives” experienced a double-digit decline in sales. Impossible’s new CEO even resorted to taking out a full-page advert in The New York Times to rebut a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story that claimed plant-based meats are “just another fad.”
Hardly anybody really believes that plant-based foods and novel proteins are better for us or taste better than the real thing, as numerous surveys and scientific studies have revealed. In 2021, for example, a survey of Australian men found that 70 percent would rather lose 10 years of their lives than give up meat.
Sympathetic researchers have cautioned that manufacturers of plant-based products must give up trying to convince people of the health and taste benefits of their products and advised that they instead focus on social pressure to convince people to change. Oatly, an “oat milk” brand, has taken this advice to heart and now regularly uses emotionally manipulative, shame-based marketing to sell its products. Watch one of its “Help Dad” videos on YouTube and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The difficulties that the biggest plant-based brands are experiencing shouldn’t blind us to the fact that plant-based foods are still being positioned to be more, not less, important in the future. Beyond Meat and Impossible may disappear, but the general trend is in the opposite direction: more brands, more products, and more money invested. For example, actress Anne Hathaway just announced her personal investment in EVERY, a new company that uses “precision fermentation” to grow proteins, including “egg proteins” in vats using microbes. The company is now funded to the tune of $230 million. And such companies are springing up everywhere, all the time. Just look at the latest round of investments by a venture capitalist like Paul Graham for a taste of the number and variety.
It’s not just startups either. The largest food-producing corporations in the world are realigning and rebranding themselves to take advantage of the new “ownership envelopes” offered by plant-based foods and alternative proteins. Companies such as Tyson and JBS Foods are investing in all manner of companies making these new products, from pea-protein firms to salmon aquaculture and insect farms. These food behemoths now think of themselves increasingly as purveyors of macronutrients, especially protein, rather than traditional foodstuffs such as meat or dairy. Tyson has already trademarked “the Protein Company,” for instance.
These vast companies have vast amounts of money, and that means that they have time: time to wait, not for us to decide freely to eat their new alternative food products, but until circumstances mean we have little choice. Every day, we move a little closer to that eventuality. In the short term, we can do things such as raising our own chickens to ensure that we still have access to eggs, but in the long run, only determined political action can ensure our health and well-being, rooted in the foods that made our ancestors strong and that trump the corporations and the Great Reset.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.