An Eggs-istential Crisis

By: Colin Schroyer

February 2nd, 2023

Since the end of 2022, grocery stores across the United States have been facing a shortage of chicken eggs and record-high prices, mainly due to the bird flu sweeping through the chicken population.

The chicken egg, a household staple for many, has seen recent shortages in grocery stores, contributing to their steep prices. In December 2022, the price for a dozen eggs rose to, on average, over four dollars. While the prices varied by state, for many areas, prices doubled compared to the same time the year prior.

Some of this price spike can be attributed to the general economic inflation that the nation has seen post-pandemic. For farmers, the cost of equipment, supplies, and products necessary to care for their livestock has increased with inflation. To sustain their livelihoods, farmers must increase the product’s prices.

However, the most damning reason for the increased price of eggs is the decrease in the egg-laying chicken population. Starting in January 2022 but only spreading rapidly come the end of that year, a highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, has been sweeping through farms nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture state that over 58 million chickens have been affected — nearly one in every six chickens in the U.S.!

While there are more than 300 million egg-laying chickens in the U.S., there has been a reported depopulation of over 44 million. In conjunction with farmers taking precautionary measures to keep their hens healthy, the result has been a substantial decrease in the total number of eggs produced. And, as supply goes down, demand goes up, resulting in sky-high prices for a simple carton of eggs.

The U.S. is not the only country affected by the egg shortage. Egg prices in Japan have reached a nine-year high as the egg and poultry industries struggle amidst the country’s efforts to combat the avian flu. Approximately 10 million birds have been culled with the hopes of reducing transmission of the disease, yet another tragic record high for Japan. New Zealand struggled immensely with the shortage, as the nation had also recently implemented new farming regulations, which further complicated the situation.

In response to these shortages and high prices, some consumers have taken to caring for their own chickens, even simply renting them for a fee. For some, the cost of caring for and raising hens outweighs the price they face at the grocery store.

Additionally, while there are very few substitutes for cooked eggs, there are some alternatives to eggs when used for baking applications, such as applesauce, vegetable oil, or yogurt, among other things. If grocery stores still lack eggs or are too costly, some local farmers’ markets may sell them at a competitive price.

Fortunately, the American Egg Board has said that most farms affected by the avian flu have recovered and are preparing to resume production. New hens are already beginning to produce eggs, and egg-laying chicken populations are projected to return — with a hearty supply of eggs to boot!

With the avian flu looking to be behind us, there is hope that prices will go back down soon. Though inflation costs may remain high, farmers are working hard to help bring eggs back to store shelves and homes across the country.

Categories: Featured

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