Egg prices increased 70% over the last year—here's why

Why egg prices are out of control right now
Why egg prices are out of control right now

Grocery costs increased dramatically over the last year, but nothing beats the price of eggs, which have grown by 70.1%, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

"What used to be $40 for a box of 120 eggs, we now pay over $100," says Julia Yum, who runs a 24-hour deli in New York City that's been owned by her family for almost 30 years. 

If she receives cracked eggs in shipments from wholesalers, she'll request a credit, even if it's just one or two: "I know it sounds a little crazy, but that's what I do. I can't lose any more."

To offset inflation, the deli has added a 50-cent surcharge to credit card purchases and increased prices on many items in the store, including cartons of eggs. However, they haven't hiked the cost of egg sandwiches just yet.

"We have to keep it affordable. We don't want to lose our customers or anything more than we lost because we're already feeling the effects of [costs] increasing," says Yum.

Why eggs have become so expensive

Egg prices have been affected by the same supply chain snarls and labor shortages that increased food costs by 10.1% overall in the last year, as measured by the consumer price index, a key measure of inflation. Egg production has also been hit hard by an avian flu outbreak, which wiped out 50.54 million birds in the U.S. in 2022.

The avian flu virus can be spread by wild birds mingling with poultry flocks, but also through contaminated clothing and equipment. The loss of flocks exacerbated the growing price of eggs, which nearly tripled in some states in the last year.

In California, for example, the retail price for a dozen large eggs is currently $7.37, up from $2.35 a year ago, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released last week

"I know what it takes to make eggs and I'm not making very much money," says Sam Miller, owner of Cedar Ridge Egg Farm, which has about 25,000 chickens. "I'm making enough to stay in business."

Due to the rising cost of producing eggs, Miller raised the price for a case of five dozen eggs from $45 to as high as $60. But the loss of flocks, as well as increased operational costs, including labor and fuel for transportation, have eaten into the increased revenue. Additionally, chicken feed expenses have increased by about $14,000 per month, he says.

"Dating back to the start of the Ukraine-Russian war, we've seen very high input costs in terms of producing eggs related to grains," says Brian Moscogiuri, global trade strategist at the egg producer Eggs Unlimited. "Corn and soy are the key ingredients in producing an egg, because that is the feedstuff that egg layers eat." 

The costs of preventing avian flu have taken their toll as well. 

"There's tremendous costs associated with disinfecting and truck washes and trying to deter wild birds," says Moscogiuri. "It's kind of just like this act of god situation that has been unavoidable and there's really no silver bullet to stop it."

In the meantime, the outbreak has subsided somewhat, which has eased prices. As of mid-February 2023, wholesale eggs prices have fallen by more than 50% since December. While farms have taken measures to limit the spread of avian flu, experts say that the virus could resurge in spring, when wild birds migrate across the U.S.

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