Whether one opts to stay home or join nearly 150 Pesach programs around the globe, the
consensus amongst the experts is that this coming Yom Tov may very well be one of the most
expensive ever. If one was counting on getting by with eggs and potatoes to tide them over,
these foods may be priced at record levels. If you noticed that the price of eggs is coming down
somewhat, as it has the past few days, know that real savings won’t be seen at the grocery
store for a while, certainly not in time for Pesach, the experts concur. This, of course, means
that all products that use eggs and potatoes as ingredients will also be part of the pinch.
Why are eggs so expensive? Eggs have been expensive all year largely because of a nationwide
bird flu outbreak, supply chain challenges and high feed costs. Bird flu alone knocked out about
10% of laying hens in 2022, said Rodney Holcomb, an agricultural economics professor at
Oklahoma State University. With the short supply, people reported paying as much as $6 and
$7 per dozen. Even if it does come down a bit in the next 8-10 weeks, think of all the Pesach
foods that rely on eggs. By comparison eggs cost as much as half what they currently sell for in
2022, on average a whopping 49% higher this year than they sold for at this time last year. Right
now, retailers are trying to replenish inventory to normal operating levels, and it could be
several months before eggs are close to the price point that shoppers are used to paying. Even
those prices won’t be what they once were, as inflation continues to affect the cost of food
across the board.
Aside from eggs and potatoes, consumers will also have to cope with higher prices for dairy in
general. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for milk are 75.12% higher in
2022 versus 1997 (a $3.76 difference in value). The current national average price is $4.20 for
“Milk, fresh, low-fat, reduced fat, skim, per gal. and that does not factor in chalav Yisrael which
is still higher. Butter prices, which have consistently risen since the start of 2022, are driving
consumers to trade down to private label offerings or to replacements like margarine. Prices of
the dairy-based product used for cooking and baking are so high because supply is tight.
Another major factor is the much higher costs for glatt kosher beef and poultry. On average the
costs of “fleish” will be about 20% higher than it was Pesach last year. In the general market,
the retail price of 100% ground beef in the United States has risen significantly in the last two
decades. In 2022, a pound of ground beef cost $4.8, up from about $2.41 in 2008. In 2018,
there were over 30 million beef cows in the United States. in 2023, beef is likely to be in short
supply, forcing Americans to get their robust protein fix and dietary centerpiece from
something other than red meat. Cattle that is suitable for glatt kosher slaughter is also in short
supply forcing purveyors to import the glatt kosher meat from South America
For the estimated 130 or so Pesach programs, the higher costs for food are only part of the
higher costs they will need to pass along, which in some cases will cause a family in a Pesach
program to pay as much as 30% more than they did just a year ago. Several operators said that
they are facing staffing shortages or in many cases much higher costs for kitchen staff and even
mashgichim, who are in great demand and in short supply.
Hotels are also faced with labor shortages and sharply increased costs in every category, which
they are passing along to the Pesach operators. A major hotel was already advertising for bell
hops and other staffing positions for the Pesach season. One program operator said that he
watches egg prices and to some extent potato prices “because those pennies add up.”
Hopefully, at least in the case of eggs, prices will come down and there will not be an outbreak
of another avian flu outbreak like last year. As for potatoes, the hope is that there will be
enough supply to keep prices at or near current levels. Cedric Porter, managing editor of World
Potato Markets, estimates there will be a 10 per cent reduction in the land being used to grow
potatoes in 2023, which could lead to a 10 per cent reduction in the harvest come October. The
current national average price is $0.18 for “white potatoes (cost per pound/453.6 grams)”.
What the data indicates at the moment is that come Pesach, inflation will still create havoc for
people, whether they stay home or are headed for a program. Some of the programs are having
a hard time explaining to guests why prices have risen so much. “They it feel at the pump, in
their supermarket, with schar limud (tuition) and even at the restaurant,” said one Pesach
program operator, “but somehow they expect Pesach prices to be like last year or in some
There is no question that the lechem oni mentioned in the Haggadah will be elusive this Pesach.
The message will be clear that despite the fact that we may somehow have avoided a recession,
we are far from reversing inflation in any meaningful way. Despite the fact that people feel the
pinch at every instance, it is the most stinging when the high prices manifest themselves
around Pesach time.
One retailer says that he “dreads watching the faces of his customers when they see prices that
are 15%-20% more than they were just a year ago and while they realize the times we live in,
they somehow expect to catch a break around Yom Tov time.” Unfortunately, nothing can be
further from the truth. Inflation is here and is likely to hang around for a while longer including
the Pesach Yom Tov.