Bird Flu Epidemic Causing “Scrambled” Egg Prices

Source: New Jersey Patch

Mass deaths from bird flu across the country have caused egg prices to soar.

A nationwide bird flu outbreak that required the slaughter of 44 million egg-laying hens is largely behind the price spikes, according to industry experts. That cut production of eggs by about 5 percent. Almost 58 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens and turkeys, have been destroyed last year because of the outbreak.

At least 47 states have been affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) since February 2022. So far in 2023, bird flu reports have been filed with the USDA from Montana, California, Nebraska, Colorado, Washington, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri and Oregon.

Nationally, consumers have been paying an average of 11 percent more than they did a year ago, according to the December 2022 inflation report released Thursday by the government.

Residents in some states are paying two and three times more for eggs than they were at this time last year. Around North Jersey, a dozen large white eggs were selling for $4.99 at Green Way Market in Maplewood. In Hoboken, Trader Joe’s had them for $4.49 (see photo). ShopRite in North Jersey offered brands for $4.19 and $5.49.

Kroger, Whole Foods, Fred Meyer and some other grocers are limiting egg purchases to one or two cartons in some areas.

Eggs from humanely raised chickens can cost even more. A Patch editor found a store in Redlands, California, that was selling cage-free eggs for $9.99 a dozen and half.

Increased costs to farmers were a bigger factor in the sharp increase in egg prices than the bird flu, Emily Metz, the president of the American Egg Board trade group, told The Associated Press.

“When you’re looking at fuel costs (that) go up, and you’re looking at feed costs (that) go up as much as 60 percent, labor costs, packaging costs — all of that … those are much bigger factors than bird flu for sure.”

The USDA’s Economic Research Service said in a recent forecast that wholesale egg prices will likely decline as the industry rebuilds egg-laying flocks. That will take time, though.

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