Price of Eggs Too High? Blame Bird Flu

Prices are near historic highs worldwide, though they're down from last year in the US
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 26, 2024 1:57 PM CDT
With Easter Approaching, Egg Prices Near Record Highs
A hen stands next to an egg at a farm in Glenview, Illinois.   (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File)

Egg prices are at near-historic highs in many parts of the world as the spring holidays approach, reflecting a market scrambled by disease, high demand, and growing costs for farmers. It's the second year in a row consumers have faced sticker shock ahead of Easter and Passover, both occasions in which eggs play prominent roles, the AP reports. While global prices are lower than they were at this time last year, they remain elevated, said Nan-Dirk Mulder, a senior global specialist with Dutch financial firm RaboBank's RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness division. Mulder doesn't expect them to return to 2021 levels.

In the United States, the average price of a dozen eggs was $2.99 in February, down from $4.21 last year, according to government data. Still, that's significantly more than the $1.59 per dozen consumers were paying in February 2021. In Europe, egg prices are 10% to 15% lower than last year but still about double what they were in 2021, Mulder said. Some factors:

  • One major culprit is avian flu. Outbreaks of the deadly respiratory disease were reported in Europe, Africa, and Asia in 2020 and spread to North America in 2021. In 2022 alone, more than 131 million poultry worldwide died or were culled on affected farms, according to the World Health Organization. Outbreaks are continuing. In December, the US confirmed cases in 45 commercial flocks and 33 backyard flocks, affecting 11.4 million birds, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

  • Even when avian flu dissipates, it can take a long time for the egg market to settle. It takes a farm three to six months to replenish a flock, so during that time, egg supplies are lower and prices rise, said Emily Metz, president of the American Egg Board, a marketing organization. If farms restock with too many chickens, it can drive prices down. That's what happened in the US last summer when egg prices plunged to $2 per dozen.
  • Government regulations also play a part in lifting egg prices. Multiple states, including California and Massachusetts, have passed cage bans for egg-laying hens since 2018; this year, bans are set to take effect in Washington, Oregon, and Michigan.
  • In the US, egg prices are expected to decrease around 2.8% this year, according to the USDA. That won't put them back to pre-COVID levels, but it should give some relief. "People really love eggs, and they notice when that price fluctuates," Metz said. "Our farmers wish it wasn't such a sharp up and down as well. It makes everything challenging."
(More eggs stories.)

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