Why Eggs Are So Expensive—and Scarce—Right Now
Amid rises in inflation over the past year, you may have noticed prices spiking on some of your go-to groceries—and some staples have become harder to find in stores. While some products' prices and availability have started to level out, the rising cost and depleted stock of eggs hasn't let up. In fact, eggs rose in price more than any other grocery item in the last year, according to research from Urner Barry. In mid-January 2022, on average, large eggs were $1.30 per dozen; by December, prices bumped up to $5.46. This isn't happening in a vacuum: There are a few specific reasons why eggs are higher in cost and lower in availability.
The avian influenza, a bird illness spread through saliva, nasal secretions, and feces, is the primary cause for the increase in egg costs. The bird flu began running rampant in early 2022 and impacted over 100 species of birds, including chickens, which suffered a 90 to 100 percent mortality rate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. As a result, there are less eggs being produced, which is making them harder to find on grocery store shelves.
To date, over 57 million birds across the country have succumbed to this disease, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The American Egg Board affirmed that that there is a resulting shortage on eggs, but it's not as widespread as it once was, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Egg availability depends on where you live, noted the American Egg Board; eggs are particularly hard to find in certain places, like California and Colorado (these states' chickens were most affected by bird flu in 2022). Even if you can find eggs, prices are much higher than normal. California has seen egg prices reach up to $7 due to low supply and high demand.
Overall, labor, ingredients, and logistics have caused food inflation to rise. For eggs in particular, increases in producers' feed and transportation costs have kept egg prices high, even as the bird flu begins to resolve (poultry processors have increased biosecurity and cleaning to prevent the spread, the Wall Street Journal reports).
There's one glimmer of hope: Egg prices might come down now that the holiday season is over, which means lower consumption (think about all the eggs you needed to make multiple batches of Christmas cookies!). Per the the USDA, this will allow egg farmers to boost their stock and take further precautions to contain and resolve the spread of the bird flu before the spring—which should help drive down prices.