Rise in egg prices tied to inflation, avian flu

Egg prices soared near the end of 2022 and have not fallen, hitting consumers in the pocketbook when purchasing what is usually a lower-cost, nutrient and protein rich food.

According to University of Arkansas agricultural economist Jada Thompson, recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show a year-over-year increase of 87% in November and 137% in December for egg prices.

The reasons are a perfect storm of price-raising economics – increased demand for eggs due to inflation and the holidays combined with a decreased supply largely due to the massive impact of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 2022.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 57,832,114 poultry have been affected by the virus in the U.S. since January, 2022.

Arkansas has been relatively lucky so far.

According to the CDC, three counties – Arkansas, Pope, and Madison – have experienced outbreaks.

"Geographically... wild bird migrations haven't impacted us as much," Thompson said, adding that broilers – which make up the bulk of Arkansas' poultry production – have been less affected by the virus.

"The hope is that [the virus] would have died over the fall and winter season, but we didn't see that. We're still seeing outbreaks all over the United States. From producers to local to regional to national, people are surveying and watching and monitoring the outbreak," Thompson said.

Other factors in the rise in prices including an increase in feed costs on the producer end, pushed by global events as far-reaching as the War in Ukraine, along with general inflationary costs.

"It isn't a case of producers making money – all costs are going up," Thompson said

Though the future is certainly tied to the whims of a devastating virus, the outlook is not entirely bad.

Thompson said that supply chain adjustments could help push egg costs back down soon.

43 million egg laying hens – layers - were lost in 2022 due to avian-flu illness and culling of herds to prevent spread.

Supply chain adjustments have resulted in a large supply of pullets – young hens under 1 year old that have not started laying eggs – that are maturing. Egg prices have begun to drop from December's highs, Thompson said.

"My sliver of hope is that everybody is doing their best at tightening biosecurity and increasing monitoring and surveillance," Thompson said.