(WETM) – With the complexities of inflation still pinching wallets, one product seems to have Americans a little more worried than others: eggs. Just why are eggs so expensive? And does the much-talked-about bird flu affect egg prices?
According to Google search data, interest in the cost of eggs started to rise just before the new year and has only gone up since. In fact, in the first week of January of 2023, searches for egg prices reached an all-time high.
With inflation reaching its highest levels in decades last year, it’s no wonder grocery shoppers are keeping their eye on prices. Eggs seem particularly susceptible to rising costs, however.
For example, the Walmart location in Horseheads, N.Y. lists a standard dozen of large white eggs at $5.60 online on Jan. 9. Across brands and colors, prices on the store’s website ranged from just over $4 to well over $7.
The prices have spiked in the last year. According to Jan. 3 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, egg prices at the 2021-2022 new year were sitting around $1.80 per dozen, on average. A year later, the same graph shows a rise to an average of $5.40 or higher with a sharp increase in the last two months of the year.
But it seems people aren’t scouring the web for egg prices without also looking into one of the culprits: bird flu. Forbes reported that the last time egg prices spiked—in 2015—it was because of another bird flu outbreak.
Over the last two years, there has been a lot of chatter about avian flu and what it means for chicken wings, Thanksgiving turkeys, and of course, eggs.
The latest avian flu outbreak has led to the death of millions of egg-laying hens. In November 2022, officials in Nebraska said 1.8 million chickens had to be killed because of the outbreak.
But how many chickens were killed because of this outbreak? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of January 4, 2023, over 57 million chickens had been slaughtered because of the virus.
So on top of historic inflation, bird flu is to blame for the skyrocketing egg costs. According to a CNBC report, egg prices in November 2022 rose almost 50% from the same time last year, compared to only a 12% jump for food at home.
But it’s not necessarily all bad news. The USDA Jan. 9, 2023 NY Eggs market report said egg prices across the empire state are down 15 cents for large and medium sizes. Plus, while egg production was down by August of 2022, the number of egg-laying chicks that hatched that month was up at least 10% compared to the same period in 2021, hopefully bringing some balance to production, demand, and prices.