The price of a dozen large eggs has seemingly doubled, compared to what it was paid for this time last year, while in some states, the price is even tripled. The average retail price for a dozen large eggs in California was $2.35 a year ago, and now it is $7.37 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While most logically the easiest way would be to blame inflation for the serious surge in price, it turns out that it is not that simple.
Emily Metz, President & CEO of the American Egg Board said that “Prices reflect several factors.” Metz said that, along with inflation and supply chain challenges, egg farmers have also had to deal with a devastating bird flu. We are, in fact, currently living through the deadliest avian flu outbreak in history.
Michael Swanson, a Wells Fargo economist, said that “Once one bird gets the flu, they all get taken out in short order.” The bird flu has reduced the overall supply of laying hens by 5% percent, year over year, Swanson noted. The flu claimed the lives of more than 53 million birds last year. “The good news is that our farms are recovering quickly,” Metz insisted, so all hope is not lost yet. “In fact, most of the egg farms that were affected by bird flu have recovered and are back to producing eggs,” Metz added.
That said, in order to save money, consumers will likely continue to consume cereal instead of scrambled eggs. A 34-year-old mom in Montana, Jessica Martin, refuses to pay more than $4 for a dozen eggs, but unfortunately for her, her local grocery store, Albertsons, has none in stock for less than $5.29. She usually buys from a brand – which comes from a local Hutterite colony – but that brand is currently sold out.
“I even looked for those little six-packs of eggs. The store didn’t have those either!” Martin said. Martin is a nurse, and fortunately for her, her livelihood doesn’t depend on the use and sale of farm fresh eggs. But unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone.
Last year’s food costs were about four times higher than what they were in previous years, said Taki Kastansis, CEO and founder of the egg-centric restaurant chain Yolk. It is cutting into Kastanis and his team’s bottom line so much that they have had to remove certain items from their menu, as they have gone from paying about $18 for a case to $70 for a case.
Poulette Bakeshop, a beloved family-owned bakery in Parker, Colorado, says eggs have become its most expensive ingredient, so it looks like small business owners, especially in the bakery industry, are having to rethink their recipes as well. They also import premium Valrhona chocolate from the south of France, but currently, eggs are even more costly than the expensive chocolate.
Some Americans who raise laying hens as a hobby are starting to second guess their side hustle. Becky Jackson, a bookkeeper in Montana who, in her free time, supplies eggs to a handful of customers, said: “I increased my price from $2.50 a dozen to $3 a dozen last month. Even at $3 a dozen, I’m still losing money.”
In order to keep costs down and grocery stores stocked, egg farmers are doing everything in their power, according to Metz. But there is also good news at the end of this story, as the USDA’s most recent Egg Market News Report shows egg prices are finally trending downward. Still, it is going to be a while before consumers can feel comfortable making quiche again, experts say.