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White House sticks with tradition and rolls the eggs

Egg-potato-rock? Egg prevails for the Easter event

Bypassing suggestions that it switch to painted potatoes or even rocks, the White House is sticking with eggs for the Easter event on Monday.
Bypassing suggestions that it switch to painted potatoes or even rocks, the White House is sticking with eggs for the Easter event on Monday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House rolls out its annual post-Easter celebration Monday with flocks of kids and 30,000 eggs on the South Lawn despite suggestions that it opt for potatoes or even rocks amid an avian flu outbreak and soaring prices.

The egg industry is crowing over its victory. 

“It’s kind of our Super Bowl,” Emily Metz, CEO and president of the American Egg Board, said about the holiday, adding that more than 3 billion eggs are sold during the season.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza took a steep toll on commercial flocks of egg-laying hens and broiler chickens starting last year. Combined with supply chain issues, the avian flu helped fuel a 70 percent rise in egg prices in the 12 months through January 2023. Egg inflation moderated to an annual rate of 55 percent in February.

Twitter responded, as memes appeared in January calling for cheaper alternatives to Easter eggs, one of the proposed options being Easter potatoes. Potatoes USA, a commodity board in Colorado focused on marketing spuds, joined in on the chatter. #easterpotatoes continues to surface on social media.

“Earlier this year, we noticed people online started talking about painting Easter potatoes, and we thought it was a really fun idea to add to their Easter festivities,” Kimberlee Breshears, Potatoes USA chief marketing officer, said via email. “We’ve loved the response to this campaign — people seem to be having a lot of fun with it.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) suggested other alternatives. In a March blog post, the organization called on first lady Jill Biden to replace chicken eggs in the White House event with plastic or wooden eggs or painted rocks as a less costly and more humane approach.  

The eggs won. 

Biden, a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, will receive an intricately crafted and painted pullet egg within a hen’s egg to reflect the “Eggucation” theme of the 2023 Easter event. 

“You can’t have Easter without eggs,” said Metz. “Eggs are such an integral part of Easter and Passover celebrations and a part of so many longtime family traditions. I don’t think painting rocks or potatoes will catch on — there’s no replacement for eggs for celebrating or eating during this season.”  

Metz, whose board markets and promotes egg sales domestically and internationally, said a refrigerated truck full of finished eggs dyed to match color charts provided by the White House reached its destination the weekend before Easter. The event is the White House’s largest public event and showcases U.S. eggs not only at the hunt, the roll and the decorating stations, but also among the food options.

‘This year we will have a special exhibit on the lawn that talks about the journey of the egg from the farm to the plate but also from the farm to the Easter egg roll,” said Metz, part of the effort “to make sure eggs are very well represented.”

The Agricultural Marketing Service, part of the Agriculture Department, in a boost to the spirit of the occasion, reported on March 31 that wholesale prices for shell eggs in cartons were declining from pre-Easter levels as anticipated demand for holiday eggs was met.

“Retail grocery promotional activity featuring shell eggs for the holiday are beginning to appear in store ads but the extent is more subdued than in recent Easters — giving the traditional Easter egg hunt a whole new meaning for consumers this season,” the report drolly noted.

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