Federal Agency Predicts Major Egg Price Relief Soon
Federal Agency Predicts Major Egg Price Relief Soon

By Jack Phillips

Egg prices will drop dramatically later this year if the United States does not see a rebound in bird flu outbreaks, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The price drop would be a welcome relief to shoppers who have paid much more for eggs in recent months than ever before. The price of a dozen eggs was up 150 percent in January from a year prior, to $4.80 a dozen, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2023, wholesale egg prices will fall 26.8 percent, USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer said in a presentation at the annual USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in Virginia on Thursday. The agency also released a report (pdf) on its livestock and poultry outlook for the remainder of the year.

Meyer noted that his projection assumes that there will not be continued avian flu outbreaks.

The price of eggs rose 8.5 percent in January 2023 compared with the month prior, according to the latest Consumer Price Index data released earlier this month.

“The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 0.7 percent over the month, as the index for eggs rose 8.5 percent. The index for cereals and bakery products rose 1.0 percent over the month, while the index for nonalcoholic beverages increased 0.4 percent in January,” it said.

Some analysts and health officials say that the surge in price was triggered by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Feb. 22 said that 58 million chickens and other birds have died or were culled during the current outbreak.

According to the agency, the “highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses cause severe disease and high mortality in infected poultry” and that “virus infections can cause disease that affects multiple internal organs with mortality up to 90 percent to 100 percent in chickens.”

Experts have noted that the virus has become endemic in some species of wild birds that transmit it to poultry, making bird flu potentially a year-round problem rather than a seasonal outbreak. On Tuesday, the USDA reported an outbreak at a commercial broiler chicken farm in Pennsylvania with almost 100,000 birds.

But egg production will increase 4 percent this year to 9.4 billion dozen, the USDA said Thursday, and the number of egg-laying chickens will rebound.

“While not quite there yet, a full recovery in the laying flock is expected,” USDA said in its livestock and poultry forecast (pdf). “Hatching egg production is expected to remain flat in 2023 with generally slow growth in broiler production.”

More Details

Reports indicate that farmers have required workers to change clothes and shower before going into barns with hens, as well as sanitizing trucks that enter a farm.

“We recommend all producers redouble their efforts to protect their birds through good biosecurity practices,” said Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to The Associated Press earlier this week.

Additionally, a fire that broke out in Connecticut last month at the Hillandale Farms property on Saturday killed a large number of chickens. Local media reports say that upwards of 100,000 died in the blaze.

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) recently sent a letter to the country’s top five egg-producing companies to see whether the price surge is being caused by price gouging.

“I am writing regarding my concerns about the elevated price of eggs and the extent to which egg producers may be using fears about avian flu and supply shocks as a cover to pad their own profits at the expense of American families,” Warren and Porter wrote.

They added: “Although wholesale prices are finally starting to drop, they have not yet dropped for retail consumers. And given the extent to which the high prices of eggs in 2022 and early 2023 harmed consumers and small businesses, we have ongoing questions about what caused the massive spike in egg prices—and how to make sure it is not repeated.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

USNN World News (USNN) USNN World News Corporation is a media company consisting of a series of sites specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, local,...