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US Customs agents seeing 300% increase in egg smuggling at southern border

Attempts to smuggle eggs from Mexico are rising as prices rise at the grocery store, according to CBP.

LAREDO, Texas — The price of your next carton of eggs will cost you more.

Recently, the average price for a dozen eggs was more than $4 in Texas. The higher-than-usual price tag is driving some shoppers across the southern border.

However, it's illegal to bring raw eggs from Mexico into the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says this is to prevent further spread of disease including the avian flu, which is, according to experts "the worst outbreak we've ever had."

Still, it isn't keeping people from testing their luck at the border.

Customs and Border Protection public affairs specialist Francisco Rodriguez said the agency has seen a 300% increase in egg seizures within the past month.

Rodriguez works in the Laredo Field Office, which includes 19 ports of entry from Del Rio to Brownsville.

"I think we’re getting lot of new travelers that are going abroad to get their grocery lists stocked up because of the current increase of prices," said Rodriguez.

KENS 5 performed our own price comparison using a dozen large brown eggs from a Texas-based grocery chain in San Antonio. In Texas, the carton costs shoppers $5.08. Comparing that price to the same product and chain in Mexico, it's cheaper at $3.74.

Credit: KENS 5

The big reason for the spike in cost: the current avian flu outbreak in the U.S.

"It has really cut our supply of egg-laying chickens. From December of 2021, we had about 327 million egg-laying chickens; that's almost one per person in the U.S. By June, we were down to 299 million and we've been trying to rebuild since then," said David Anderson, professor and extension economist with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service.

Anderson said recovery is slow as we wait on biology to run its course and produce more egg-laying hens. He predicts egg prices will remain high for now.

"I think we ought to expect that the worse is not behind us in terms of higher prices. We have some holiday demand driven needs for eggs so that's likely to increase prices. I do think we will see lower prices as our egg producers are able to expand production as 2023 goes on," said Anderson.

Still, Anderson doesn't suggest heading south to the border. Smugglers can face penalties if eggs are not declared and given up at customs. Rodriguez said fines begin at $300.

While raw eggs aren't allowed to cross the border, cooked eggs are such as the eggs inside your breakfast taco.

"They can bring hard boiled eggs since it's been sterilized essentially," said Rodriguez.

Unsure of what goods are allowed to cross the border? Visit the U.S. Customs website.

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