Taniesa L. Sullivan | The Weekly Ledger News | USA Today
Shoppers across the nation have been scrambling for months to keep up with soaring egg prices.
Prices continue to skyrocket – up 60% in December from a year earlier. Last year, the average price for a dozen large Grade A eggs in the U.S. was $1.93 in January. By December, when egg demand peaked, the price surged to $4.25 and now they are over $5 per dozen large Grade A eggs.
The high prices prompted a "He went to Kroger" meme, with an egg in place of an engagement ring in the "He went to Jared" jewelry advertisement.
How much do eggs cost?
The price of eggs jumped 11% in December from the month before and jumped 21% in January 2023 from December 2022, according to Consumer Price Index data. The average price for a dozen large Grade A eggs in December hit $4.25 and in January 2023 a dozen large Grade A eggs are over $5. Just the year before they were around $1.79, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Why are eggs so expensive?
1) An increasing demand during the holidays.
2) Higher production costs for farmers.
3) And the 2022 outbreak of avian flu, a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to poultry such as chickens and turkeys.
Per reports as of December, more than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost since the avian flu outbreak began in February 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The virus has led to the deaths of more than 57 million birds in hundreds of commercial and backyard flocks across 47 states since February, surpassing the 50 million birds lost in the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, according to the USDA.
How have egg prices changed?
The average price for a dozen large Grade A eggs in the average U.S. city range from $1.79 in January 2010 to $5.27 in January 2023.
"We have seen infections get into a flock, where they look perfectly fine one day, and then the next day they're all dead," said Gregory Martin, a poultry educator at Penn State Extension. "That's how quickly this thing moves. And so, the losses are very, very severe."
Martin said bird flu is not a foodborne illness, so poultry and eggs found in grocery stores are safe to eat.
Why are eggs in short supply?
Some states like Colorado and California have reported empty egg shelves at grocery stores. Meanwhile, consumers in states like Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Arizona, and others have resorted to raising their own chickens.
"We are seeing some very, very temporary, isolated, and hyperlocal shortages," said Emily Metz, CEO of the trade group American Egg Board. "We have not seen widespread shortages. We have not seen panic buying or anything like that."
Will egg prices go down?
When egg prices will drop is hard to predict and depends on both supply and demand, said Maro Ibarburu, associate scientist at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University.
"In the absence of new cases (of avian influenza), the production of eggs will gradually increase over the next several months, and that should help with the market," Ibarburu said. "But the demand is also an important factor."
For now, you can save money by clipping coupons and comparing deals online to shop for the lowest price, according to personal finance service The Ascent.