Eggs are a grocery store staple for many, but soaring prices may deter people from enjoying their traditional breakfasts. Recent data revealed that average egg prices jumped 49.1% in November 2022 compared to a year earlier. That is the largest annual percentage increase for a small grocery item in that period.
Today, Americans have to shell out an average of $3.59 for a dozen Grade A eggs. Compare that to the average $1.72 per dozen in November 2021. Depending on the quality of eggs and the area in which you live, you may pay up to $8.99 for a dozen cage-free eggs. Eggs have not seen such a dramatic price increase since 1973? So what is the reason behind the soaring egg prices? You could almost say that prices are eggs-orbitant!
Serious Bird Flu Plays A Role
One factor behind the egg shortage and inflation of egg prices is an avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak. This is a highly contagious virus that is typically fatal to chickens. In fact, since the beginning of the outbreak, which was detected in February 2022, more than 57 million birds in hundreds of commercial and backyard flocks have been affected. The U.S. hasn’t seen an avian flu outbreak like this since 2015, but that one was effectively contained. Flocks that were either infected or exposed are culled (selectively slaughtered) to prevent the spread of the virus. This measure led to the depopulation of more than 44 million laying hens in the U.S., according to the Agricultural Department.
Because of the depopulations at commercial facilities, the domestic egg supply has dramatically decreased. Experts have seen a 7.5% average supply decrease each month since the beginning of the outbreak. Spokespeople for the Agricultural Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said that after facilities are fully sanitized and restocked with healthy laying hens, it can take about four to five months to reach “peak productivity.” That means that each hen lays about 24 eggs per month.
Egg Prices Soar Outside The U.S. As Well
United Egg Producers state that the virus has been detected in Canada and countries in Europe and South America. This trade group represents most commercial egg farmers in the United States. Emily Metz, president and chief executive of the American Egg Board, said that although bird flu has influenced the increased prices for eggs, it isn’t the sole reason.
Input Costs Soar
Energy, transportation, and feed costs have pushed up prices. Due to these rising costs that farmers have faced within the last year, egg prices have had to increase as a result. Experts argue that bird flu isn’t even the biggest factor for these higher egg prices. When you account for rising fuel and feed prices, you realize that they play a larger role in egg prices than some bird flu. In some states, from Colorado to New York, egg shelves are empty. A bagel store owner in New York said that he used to pay $70 to $80 for 30 dozen eggs. He now has to pay $150 to $160 for the same 30 dozen, so breakfast items may increase in addition to grocery store egg prices. According to local media in Arizona and Massachusetts, people started buying their own chickens!
Some Relief Soon?
The pain of paying higher prices for eggs may end soon enough. During the holidays, people typically purchase more eggs to make holiday-specific foods and beverages. Since holiday egg consumption is down, more stock of eggs will be available soon. Economists observed that the price pressures of eggs seem to be easing, and that the U.S. will likely see relief in the coming months. Egg farmers have steadily replaced their flocks that they lost to the bird flu last year. As the spot prices fall, the market will follow and you’ll probably see a 25-30% decrease in egg prices. However, additional bird flu outbreaks could disrupt this trend.