Coronavirus and egg hoarding?

These are strange times, indeed. I was driving down the main stretch of road in my corner of suburban Cincinnati, and I thought I had been transported back to the 1990s. Gasoline was only $1.68 per gallon. (I’m not 100% certain; but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been that cheap in this century.)

The streets, meanwhile, were not exactly deserted; but they were peopled at levels I remember from sometime during the last decade of the last century. This side of Cincinnati has really become overpopulated in the past 20 years.

The people haven’t left, of course. And no—they haven’t died of coronavirus, either. My county, Clermont, has only five cases of COVID-19 at the time of this writing, none of them fatal. The people are hunkered indoors, like most people throughout the country. Governor DeWine closed down more or less everything in the Buckeye State on March 16. So even with all that cheap gas, there is nowhere to go and nowhere to drive to. Therefore, people aren’t buying much gasoline.

What are they buying?

Well, according to the latest news reports, they’re buying eggs, of all things. Eggs are the targets of the latest hoarding wave.

First it was surgical masks and disinfectant. Then it was toilet paper. After that, oats and breakfast cereals. Now it’s eggs. Wholesale egg prices have risen 180% in recent days, even as gas stations struggle to give their product away. (There has been talk of negative oil prices; I’m not sure how that’s even possible; but I digress.)

The hoarding of eggs makes absolutely no sense, on multiple levels. Toilet paper, at least, has an unlimited shelf life as long as it is properly stored. A container of Quaker Oats is good for at least a year unopened. But eggs are perishable. And there is nothing you’re likely to find in your kitchen that is quite so foul as a spoiled egg.

Can eggs be frozen? I wouldn’t want to try it. Liquid expands when it’s frozen, and that would probably crack the shells. Thawing would be problematic, more trouble than it would be worth.

Moreover, it is completely pointless. Not even the most dour pessimists have suggested that America’s food supply is in jeopardy. Eggs, moreover (unlike toilet paper) are something that family farms and smalltime operators can produce if necessary. When my father was a boy, my grandparents had a backyard chicken coop. The backyard chicken coop is now mostly a thing of the past. But small-scale egg production wouldn’t be difficult to mobilize, if it were ever necessary.

I like eggs; but eggs aren’t a food that I would want to eat more than once per day. Eggs are one of those good things that easily become too much of a good thing. Even I can’t eat them every single day; and I like them. I have plenty of friends who don’t like eggs at all.

So please, if you’re reading this: don’t hoard eggs. Hoard canned asparagus or raisins instead. How about deviled ham? Have you thought about sardines?

The hoarding of eggs, again, makes no sense. But much of the public and private response to the coronavirus pandemic has been nonsensical and counterintuitive. We should not be surprised.