January 26, 2023
Among other things, 2022 will be remembered as the year that saw food prices (and prices of other goods) spike through the roof and caused many families to tighten their budgets in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades. And as if sky-high grocery prices weren’t enough, shortages of everyday necessities like butter, baby formula, tomatoes, and turkey tested consumers’ patience throughout the year. Now, at the beginning of the new year, consumers are paying much more for a formerly inexpensive and reliable kitchen staple as an egg shortage has taken hold.
Why There Is An Egg Shortage Right Now
In addition to an increase in fuel, packaging, and chicken feed prices, the current shortage of eggs can be partially blamed on an especially contagious outbreak of avian flu that has already killed tens of millions of chickens across the nation and in other countries. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the outbreak happened over a year ago in February 2022. It is the deadliest outbreak of avian flu in the nation’s history and led health officials to ‘depopulate’ or slaughter close to 60 million chickens by the end of 2022, due to the virulence of this specific strain of the disease.
The scope of the outbreak in the U.S. has been uneven, with some states being hit harder than others. Colorado and California have both suffered deep losses in their egg production. Additionally, California is one of several states that have banned the sale of eggs from caged chickens, which is better for the chickens, of course, but it does affect supply significantly.
Less Supply = More Expensive
It’s no surprise that a limited supply of eggs means that consumers will be paying more for them for the foreseeable future. The price of a dozen eggs has risen in 47 states and by the end of 2022, egg prices rose 49% nationwide. According to the Los Angeles Times, eggs that only cost $2.35 at the end of December 2021, cost shoppers $7.37 just a year later. A now-viral post on Reddit shocked readers when a Walmart shopper shared a photo of a shelf of eggs that listed a price of $27 for 5 dozen eggs. The increase in prices has led retailers to limit the number of cartons of eggs that shoppers can purchase.
Other Effects of the Shortage
Just like rising fuel prices have far-reaching effects on what consumers pay for food, taxi/rideshare rides, airline tickets, and more, increased prices of eggs affect more than just the sticker prices at the grocery stores. Diners are paying more for their dishes at restaurants, as owners have no choice but to pass along the higher prices of their orders to their customers. The owner of a bagel shop in New York City recently told the New York Times that he is now paying $150-160 for the same order of 30 dozen eggs that he was paying $70-80 just a year ago.
When Will Prices Come Down?
While demand for eggs is down slightly at the moment, due to the post-holiday shift in meal preparation, eggs are still an essential part of the average kitchen, and consumers are wondering when they will see lower prices at their corner grocery store. The beginning of
the lower price cycle will likely not begin until the avian flu outbreak is under control. In addition, many farms order baby chicks as much as two years in advance, and the average hen doesn’t start producing eggs until about 5 months old. As a result, it could be summer or even fall, before prices recede for good.
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