Here's Why You May See Rising Egg Prices Right Now
If you've noticed that eggs are more expensive at the supermarket, you're not alone—and it's not just the usual grocery inflation you're seeing in other aisles at the store. The USDA has confirmed that an avian flu is spreading among many birds in the United States, infecting both backyard and commercial chickens and turkeys alike.
In particular, commercial layer chickens in Iowa, Maryland, South Dakota and Wisconsin have been affected. The state with the most endangered layer chickens—about 12 million—is Iowa, which produces the most eggs in the country. Backyard chickens in 19 states, from Maine to Nebraska, have also come down with the virus. More than 57 million poultry birds have been affected by the illness so far, according to the CDC, either because they succumbed to the flu or were killed to prevent it from spreading further. The commercial flocks likely caught the virus from wild birds, who have also been testing positive for the virus—the wild birds affected include bald eagles, mallards, owls and swans.
Egg prices are already on the rise, according to the USDA Egg Market Report, from a low point of about $1.40 per dozen in March 2022 to a national average of $3.26 in January 2023, when the most recent report was released. Inflation coupled with an increase in feed prices due to the war in Ukraine are the two major causes. The shrinking number of the layer chickens in the U.S. hasn't helped, according to animal protein economist Brian Earnest of Cobank. As the outbreak goes on, further depopulation could compound the problem.
Right now, the USDA lists just two flocks of commercial poultry birds affected, but if the flu continues to spread, we could see additional hikes on poultry as well. Supplies are good for now—both the USDA's egg market and broiler market reporting shows that there's more than enough to go around.
In any case, it's good to remember that some shortages, like the toilet paper shortage of 2020, can be caused by customers overbuying when they don't need to. So just be sure not to take more eggs or chicken than you need if supplies get tight—let's share the wealth.