“An avian flu outbreak devastated the poultry industry throughout 2022. By the end of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were 43 million fewer egg-laying hens than in February 2022. Egg inventories fell 29 percent from January to December. When demand outstrips supply, prices go up.
A similar outbreak in late 2014 affected more than 50 million birds. According to Fed data, egg prices rose from $1.96 a dozen in May 2015 to $2.96 in September 2015 before falling for more than a year afterward.
The 2022 outbreak, by contrast, persisted into 2023. At the same time, general inflation was unusually high: 6.5 percent in 2022, compared to 0.7 percent in 2015. “Like consumers,” the American Feed Industry Association noted in January 2023, “feed manufacturers are feeling the effects of inflation on the economy and are paying increased rates for energy, shipping, labor and ingredients.” So even as the number of hens dropped, the cost of feeding them rose.
The good news is that egg prices began falling after January’s high. Average egg prices fell from $4.82 a dozen in January to $4.21 in February and $3.45 in March. The USDA predicted that, barring an avian flu resurgence, prices would continue to fall throughout the year.”
“The thing about excuseflation is it’s sort of grounded in truth. It’s the idea that companies are using these once-in-a-lifetime disruptions. Think about the supply chain hiccups that we’ve had. Think about the Ukraine-Russia war. And they’re using those one-off disruptions as an excuse to raise prices. And that sounds fair enough. You know, companies, they have expenses. If their input costs go up, maybe it makes sense for them to pass some of those on to customers. But where it starts to become insidious is when they’re raising prices so much that they’re seeing their profits go up quite substantially as well.”
“Sure. So one of my favorite examples, because, you know, I love these personally, but chicken wings. Let’s talk about chicken wings and Wingstop. Wingstop is a very large purveyor of very delicious chicken wings. And what they’ve been saying on their earnings calls is that they have been raising their prices for their delicious chicken wings. And the reason they’ve been doing that is because the wholesale cost of your basic chicken wing went up quite a lot during the pandemic. We had a lot of disruptions at various farms, chicken farms with labor shortages and things like that. So it made sense that chicken wing prices went up and the company started passing those on to consumers.
The issue now, though, is that we have seen a substantial drop in chicken wing prices. And yet the company isn’t saying that it’s going to start dropping its prices. What it’s discovered, much like a lot of other businesses at the moment, is that actually this strategy of making up what you lose in sales volume with higher prices, so you’re selling fewer products, but you’re selling them at higher prices, [is] a viable strategy in the current environment, and it’s working for a lot of companies because profit margins are up.”
“baker in Chicago kind of laid it out for us. He said: “Whether it’s rye flour or bird flu, that impacts eggs when it makes national news just running a business, it’s an opportunity to increase the prices without getting a whole bunch of complaining from the customers. It’s not that we’re out there price gouging, but, you know, timing can be everything.””
“think about the reason that we tend not to like monopolies as consumers. We want, you know, a vibrant landscape of lots of smaller businesses that are all competing with each other so that we get a better value for our money. What happens when you have an industry-wide event that gives a group of businesses an excuse to raise prices: They are all effectively, not officially, but effectively acting as a monopoly. They can all say, well, you know, it’s bird flu, so we’re all going to raise the prices of our eggs.”
“The squeeze on eggs is so bad that some grocery stores are reporting shortages, and some are even limiting the number of cartons customers can purchase.
It’s a significant change for what’s long been a reliably cheap staple, and there’s one major culprit: the bird flu.”
“The last year has brought the worst bird flu outbreak in US history, and there are no signs it’s going to relent soon. Some 57.8 million birds in the US — mostly egg-laying hens — have died as a result of bird flu outbreaks surpassing the previous record of 50.5 million in 2015, and it’s not letting up. Just in the 10 days prior to Christmas, 1.5 million egg-laying hens died.
The virus is expected to continue to circulate among wild birds and the ones we raise for food for the duration of winter, meaning egg prices — along with prices for turkey — could remain high for the foreseeable future.”
“most victims don’t die from the virus itself. Rather, they’re culled, or proactively killed, in a brutal effort to prevent the virus from doing even more damage.”
“a major reason why bird flu is so destructive in the US is that factory farms — with so many chickens and turkeys in such close quarters — are the perfect playing field for the virus, which is why farmers are so quick to cull infected flocks. But that very fact raises a simple, but surprisingly controversial question: If avian flu is so deadly and so economically destructive, why on earth aren’t we vaccinating birds against the virus?”
“For countries in which poultry exports make up a big share of the industry’s revenue — such as the US and many European countries — vaccines have largely been a nonstarter, even though they have the potential to severely limit the death toll of mass culling. Why? Blame the “DIVA” problem.
DIVA is short for “differentiating infected from vaccinated animals” — the challenge of identifying whether a bird is actually infected with avian influenza, or just has avian influenza antibodies after vaccination. Countries fear that importing eggs or slaughtered meat from vaccinated birds in countries where the virus is circulating could inadvertently spread it within their own borders by introducing the virus to wild or domesticated animals through discarded raw meat. That means that big poultry exporters like the US — which sends 18 percent of its poultry abroad — don’t vaccinate, for fear they’ll miss out on a huge part of their revenue: international trade.”
“without international coordination and predictable vaccine use, it doesn’t make economic sense for vaccine makers to invest in developing vaccines that protect against the bird flu. “We’re not going to make [massive investments] unless we’ve got major markets on board,” said du Marchie Sarvaas. “And the only way you’re going to get major markets on board is if you get some sort of political deal. And that comes to the trade point and the export point.””
“It’s also a geopolitical coordination challenge, a classic game theory problem where no major poultry-producing country wants to be the first to vaccinate. As a result, everyone sticks with the kill ’em all approach.”
“”Data on overall traffic trends supports the notion that the average flier has not been negatively affected by consolidation,” the Eno Center for Transportation, a research nonprofit, found in 2017. “As the industry has consolidated and grown throughout the decades, the number of seats that are available for passenger use—available seat miles—has increased multiple times over. By some measures, the cost of domestic air travel has remained level since 2006, adjusting for inflation.”
However, there is some evidence that certain mergers have led to price increases. As a 2016 data analysis by travel writer JT Genter found, “On average, airfares between former Delta and Northwest hubs increased substantially—much more than the national average—demonstrating that the Delta-Northwest merger wasn’t good for hub-based flyers.” Genter continued, “However, airfares between United and Continental hubs have seen much more modest increases over the last five years, and the fares have actually decreased on average over the last four years.”
Current evidence, though not uniformly supportive of all mergers, points toward them being generally good for consumers. Larger airlines tend to mean more flights at similar or lower prices—especially when traveling through hubs. Even when evidence points to some mergers resulting in price hikes for consumers, Warren and Padilla’s assertions that airline consolidation “routinely heaps inconvenience and abuse on consumers” are exaggerated.”
“Mark Cuban’s online pharmacy was founded to sell prescription drugs at the lowest and most transparent prices possible. As Cuban recently told PBS News Weekend, when it comes to medication, “the reality is the only number that matters is cost. What can we as the retailer or the distributor, buy it for and how low can we sell it? So we decided to take the exact opposite approach that politicians have been taking.”
That approach involves selling generic drugs for a 15 percent markup, plus $3 for pharmacy labor and $5 shipping. The result is that Cuban’s company is able to sell generic drugs at significantly lower rates than typical retail prices. For example, a 30-day supply of Amlodipine, a common high blood pressure medication, costs only $3.60 at Cost Plus Drugs, while the typical retail price is $50.10.
Some drugs have even higher savings.”
“Cuban’s company is restricted to unpatented generic drugs. While Cuban can sell these drugs at a massive discount, it is worth noting that research into new drugs, as well as the costs of clinical trials, is funded by the high profit margins derived from patents. While Cost Plus Drugs is a welcome innovation for drugs that are no longer patented, Cuban’s business model likely can’t fund drug innovation.”
“Cuban himself notes that Cost Plus Drugs isn’t the first company to try this approach, but it is the first to succeed”
“Last week, a new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that if Medicare Part D plans had purchased generic drugs from Cuban’s company, Medicare could have saved $3.6 billion in 2020.”
“Cuban has been vocal on Twitter about the study, asking President Joe Biden and other political leaders to “have your people call my people and let’s get this done.” However, as exciting as reducing Medicare’s budget sounds, progress on the issue seems unlikely. Legislative solutions to the high price of prescription drugs have often been slow-moving and stalled by partisan bickering.”
“Several factors have pushed gas prices down, including a drop in oil prices as recession fears grow and a smaller-than-expected impact from Western sanctions on Russia. Supply has also improved relative to demand, which has slightly fallen in recent weeks and remains at levels lower than a year ago, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.”
How Much Of The Gasoline Price Surge Is President Biden’s Fault? Robert Rapier. 2022 3 13. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2022/03/13/how-much-of-the-gasoline-price-surge-is-president-bidens-fault/?sh=31618bce7c8b 4 reasons high gas prices aren’t Joe Biden’s fault—and one critical way he’s adding to the problem Will Daniel. 2022 6 8. Fortune. https://www.yahoo.com/video/4-reasons-high-gas-prices-090000545.html
“Homelessness is a major issue in the U.S., and is inherently intertwined with the cost of housing. In fact, in a recent poll, respondents from the 20 metro areas that experienced the largest population growth between 2010–2019 listed both the cost of housing and homelessness as their top two concerns, and by almost identical margins (86 and 87 percent, respectively). The average cost of rent has increased nearly 20 percent within the last year alone, and since 2001, in nearly every state, rents have risen at a faster rate than incomes.
But simply offering rental assistance without a simultaneous increase in the supply of housing would only serve to exacerbate the cost problem, as a larger amount of money would chase after the exact same amount of inventory. In fact, the U.S. is currently as many as 5 million houses short of meeting estimated demand.
Of the roughly $150 billion which the Build Back Better Act appropriates toward housing, more than half is put toward dubious use, via rental assistance programs. About a third of that portion, though, is specifically tailored toward the construction or rehabilitation of more affordable housing units to increase the overall supply, which could help drive down costs.”
“The Build Back Better Act does fund the establishment of a “competitive grant program,” the Unlocking Possibilities Program, to incentivize “streamlining regulatory requirements and shorten[ing] processes, [and] reform[ing] zoning codes.” As with any grant program, its efficacy will be dictated by its implementation, but with more than $4.26 billion appropriated, there is plenty of breathing room to potentially make a difference.
In an ideal scenario, of course, there would be as few zoning restrictions as possible, allowing developers to simply respond to the needs of the community without requiring the government’s stamp of approval. While public funding to incentivize a reduction or simplification of red tape is better than the status quo, it is still not a perfect solution.”
“More than 580,000 Americans are homeless. The median sale price for a home has just surpassed $400,000. Homeownership is on the decline.
This, by all accounts, is a national emergency — and one House Democrats had proposed $330 billion to tackle as part of their Build Back Better plan. This package was both a once-in-a-generation investment and also barely enough to scratch the surface. Now, even those proposed investments are being cut down as part of negotiations over the final package.”
“some in Congress were willing to make substantial investments, very few were willing to tackle the fundamental problem that was making homes so expensive in the first place: lack of supply.
Yes, it’s easier to try to help people afford something expensive than to try and make it less expensive to begin with. But many of the policies that try to subsidize housing can actually make it more expensive. “What you really need if you want to lower those new home prices, is you need to build more homes — and there’s not that much of that in this bill,” says Paul Williams, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute.”
“Medicare’s inability to determine the price it pays for aducanumab is a uniquely American problem compared to health systems in the rest of the developed world. Countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have independent boards that evaluate a new drug’s effectiveness and set a price based on that estimated value. The US pharma industry says the US system is important for encouraging innovation, and companies have made amazing breakthroughs, such as the hepatitis-C drugs that effectively cure that disease.
But, as the standards for approving have sometimes seemed to slip in recent years, the chances of the FDA approving very expensive drugs with only marginal benefits have risen.
“We don’t require prices to reflect the value of treatment, period,” Dusetzina said. “Companies can price their drugs as high as they want. Companies can also get drugs approved with little evidence.”
So Biogen is planning to charge $56,000 annually for aducanumab. ICER, which evaluates the estimated value of new drugs, estimates, based on the clinical evidence, that it’s worth more like $8,000; perhaps as little as $2,500 or as much as $23,100. Regardless, the price announced after Biogen secured FDA approval “far exceeds even this optimistic scenario,” ICER concluded.”