Why Is There an Egg Shortage in the US and Around the World?

Why Is There an Egg Shortage in the US and Around the World?

The combined regional large egg weekly average price reached $5.40 for a dozen eggs in December 2022, according to the USDA.

In 2022, rising food prices and food shortages became a new normal for consumers, with the likes of baby formula, coffee, turkey and other staple foods experiencing long standing shortages. Unfortunately, the new year has brought with it some new challenges, including an egg shortage and soaring egg prices. So, why is there an egg shortage in the US and internationally?

US Egg Shortage

Simply put, there’s an egg shortage due to an unprecedented outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu, that has killed tens of millions of egg-laying chickens nationwide. Since the outbreak was detected last February, more than 57 million birds in hundreds of commercial and backyard flocks have been affected by it, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

This strain of avian flu is highly contagious and kills 90 to 100 percent of chickens within 48 hours if exposed to the virus. Because of its virulence, health officials have had to preemptively slaughter millions of birds. Bird flu was also responsible for driving up turkey prices and causing a turkey shortage ahead of last year’s Thanksgiving.

Related: Is There a Coffee Shortage Brewing?

Besides the avian flu, the industry has been affected by increased production costs that include feeding hens, which depends mainly on the costs of soya and corn. Feeding hens is now at least 50 percent more expensive than it was in past years, and energy prices have soared in the same way that consumers have seen their domestic bills rise.

Meanwhile, some states have been hit harder by the egg shortage than others. In Colorado, egg production fell to about one-third of its usual amount and Weld County, Colorado saw its entire commercial egg flock wiped out last year. California was also affected, in part due to its reliance on millions of cage-free chickens to comply with Proposition 12, the 2018 animal welfare initiative that took effect in 2022.

In Europe, there was a three percent egg production decline, according to the French National Committee for the Egg Promotion (CNPO).

Shelling Out More Money for Eggs

The egg shortage brings with it soaring egg prices, meaning consumers are shelling out more for eggs at the grocery store right now. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the price of eggs has jumped 49.1 percent in the span of about a year, much higher than the 12 percent rise in overall food prices.

Egg prices have risen in almost all states, with some states seeing egg prices tripling over the past year. In California, for example, the average retail price for a dozen large eggs recently jumped to $7.37, up from $4.83 at the beginning of December and just $2.35 at that time last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Elsewhere, consumers are also scrambling to find cheaper eggs. In Washington, the average cost of a dozen large, Grade A eggs more than doubled to $3.59 in November 2022 from $1.72 at that time last year, the Seattle Times reported. Midwest Farms Grade A large eggs, which are considered the benchmark for eggs sold in their shells, hit $5.46 per dozen, up from $1.70 the same time the previous year.

Even while prices have soared, egg sales have only declined by about two percent by unit in retail in the year through December 4, 2022, according to data from the market research firm IRI. Consumers have been accepting high prices at the grocery store as they pull back on restaurant visits. And even though eggs have gotten more expensive, they still cost less than other proteins.

Better Times Ahead

While egg farmers were forced to learn hard lessons when it came to managing the bird flu, they are much better prepared for dealing with outbreaks than in the past. As such, egg farmers are recovering more quickly from having a flock culled and a facility decontaminated.

While it’s unclear when the egg shortage will come to an end, prices have reportedly started to trend down now that the holiday season is over. Egg production will eventually adjust in response to the bird flu, though the bird flu may never be completely eradicated from the US poultry population.