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WaPo's Megan McArdle explains why people need to stop worrying about eggs getting so expensive

Sometimes, Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle gets it right. And other times, she gets it really, really wrong.

This particular time would definitely fall into the latter category. Oof:

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Mad? Or just irritated? Because from where we’re sitting, anyone who has a problem with McArdle’s column has a pretty compelling case. At least anyone who has to be able to afford food for their family. Like, is it really a great idea to tell people who are struggling to buy staple foods like eggs that they should be grateful that they’re paying double and triple what they paid about a year ago, because eggs used to be way more expensive relative to income 70 years ago or 120 years ago?

If you look at old cookbooks, you will notice that the authors seem to view eggs and chicken as almost a luxury good. My 1950 “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook book” contains recipes for making mock chicken dishes — out of veal. Go back further and the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbook sternly informs readers that, “eggs, even at twenty-five cents per dozen, should not be freely used by the strict economist.” An odd assertion to the modern ear, until you realize that in 1896 a pound of round steak was about 35 percent cheaper than a pound of eggs. (Today, by contrast, a pound of eggs — about 9 eggs — would cost you roughly $3.21 at my grocery store, while a pound of round steak is $8.69.)

Almost all food items have gotten much cheaper, relative to our incomes, than they were a century ago. But some food prices fell faster than others, and chicken and eggs were among those that saw the greatest improvements, thanks to a combination of agricultural innovations. Raising chickens indoors helped protect them from disease and predators. Providing them with warmer conditions and artificial light helped extend a laying season which otherwise stops in winter. Farmers developed the raised cage system which has helped increase egg production, as have breeding programs. Modern hens have gone from laying about 150 eggs per hen per year in the 1930s, to 296 today.

But the benefits of this revolution have also been enormous. In 1905, an average male factory worker older than 16 took home $11.16 a week, enough to buy about 41 cartons of eggs. Today, the median man earns $1,176 a week, enough to buy more than 275 cartons of eggs, even at today’s elevated prices. If you can’t help cringing when you see the cashier ring up eggs that cost twice as much as they did a year ago, it might help to remember that however poor you feel, your ancestors would have taken one look at your grocery cart and declared you rich beyond their dreams.

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OK, but it’s 2023. And food prices are going back up relative to income. No disrespect to our ancestors or anything, but we’re concerned about being able to pay for stuff now.

Kinda hard to blame people who aren’t receiving the column well for not receiving the column well. “You’ll pay through the nose for your eggs and be grateful for it” is not exactly a winning message.

Literally nobody. Nobody who isn’t deranged, at least.

Come on, Megan.

We’re definitely not buying what McArdle is selling.

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