The Shady Reason Minnesota Is Suing This Egg Producer

Sparboe Farms, an egg producer based in Litchfield, Minnesota, is in hot water with the state's Attorney General Keith Ellison. Ellison recently filed a lawsuit against the farm, claiming that they engaged in price gouging during the pandemic. According to the National Law Review, at the onset of the pandemic, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz put into effect an executive order that prohibited "unconscionably excessive increases in the prices of essential items during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency." The executive order barred companies from increasing the prices of essential goods more than 20% of what they had been priced 30 days before March 13, 2020, when the "peacetime emergency" had been instituted.

According to Ellison's suit, Sparboe Farms' egg prices rose from between $0.84 and $1 per dozen to almost $3 in late March and early April of 2020, an increase of almost 200%, according to the Star Tribune. The suit alleges this was a violation of the executive order and seeks "penalties of up to $25,000 for each separate violation" as well as repayment of any profits as a result of the alleged price gouging.

The attorney general alleges Sparboe Farms engaged in price gouging

However, Sparboe Farms claims they did nothing wrong, instead saying their prices have always been based on the market. "We don't sell directly to consumers or retailers nor do we set the prices grocers and other retailers charge for eggs. We sell our eggs to our wholesale customers based on long-term contracts that have a market-based pricing formula — some in place for more than 40 years. That was true before COVID, it was true during COVID, and it remains true today," Britta McGuire, Sparboe Farms' head of marketing and granddaughter of the founder, said in a statement (via Star Tribune). "To state it as simply and clearly as possible, we have not, do not, and will never engage in the practices the Attorney General accuses us of." 

Troy Hutchinson, the lawyer representing Sparboe Farms, told the Star Tribune his client even offered to renegotiate contracts for their customers in light of the pandemic. McGuire also claimed that while market prices peaked briefly in early April of 2020, they fell soon after, and that, overall, the farm experienced a loss in 2020.