What’s up with egg prices?

by Kate Shunney

Inflation has hit grocery shoppers hard in the last year, spiking the prices of nearly every item at least 30%. In the case of eggs, that price jump has been startling.

Last week, a dozen medium eggs at the Hancock Save-A-Lot were $2.79 and $3.99 per dozen for large eggs.

Eggs on the shelf at Hancock Save-A-Lot on December 1. photo by Geoff Fox

It’s not just holiday demand for baking supplies at work, driving up the cost.

According to an article in Forbes magazine on November 26, the nationwide price of eggs has nearly double in two years.

The cause, they say, is three-fold.

First, the supply of chickens laying eggs has dropped due to a bird flu outbreak that has hit particularly hard in the last 8-12 months. When the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HP AI) infects birds, they generally die quickly. Some poultry operations in Maryland have also had to “depopulate” their flocks to stem the spread of the respiratory disease, which is not new. Fewer chickens mean fewer eggs.

Luckily, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that national egg production is likely to go up again soon as chicks of the egg-laying variety of chicken hatched at a higher rate this year than in 2021. In August, the hatch rate went up 13%, the USDA said. As soon as those chicks mature to laying age, egg production should swing back up.

Second, the eggs that are being laid in commercial operations cost more to produce and transport due to general inflation. Chicken feed, the wages of farm workers and the cost of fuel to ship eggs have all gone up in price as part of the global inflation trends.

Third, supply-chain issues have hit poultry farmers the same way they have affected many other industries. Farm supplies that are more difficult to find or cost more to buy will raise the price of the finished product – in this case, that dozen of eggs you need to make breakfast and those batches of Christmas cookies.