Playing a shell game: When will egg prices come down?

U.S.

Shown are eggs at a grocery store in Roslyn, Pa., Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The price of eggs is coming down, but real savings won’t be seen at the grocery store for a while.

Eggs have been expensive all year largely because of a nationwide bird flu outbreak, supply chain challenges and high feed costs. Bird flu alone knocked out about 10% of laying hens in 2022, said Rodney Holcomb, an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University.

“It was a perfectly bad storm — not a perfect storm, a perfectly bad storm — of high energy prices, high feed prices and avian flu,” said Holcomb. “It resulted in big price fluctuations we haven’t seen since the avian flu issue of 2015, and this was even worse.”

The most recent available consumer data show that a dozen eggs in November 2022 cost, on average, a whopping 49% higher than at this time last year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its Egg Market Overview released over the weekend that more eggs were delivered last week — up 11% — and future deliveries are up 14%. More inventory will help drop prices for shoppers.

The Midwest wholesale price for large eggs delivered to warehouses recently decreased by $0.13 to $5.17 a dozen.

The retail prices lag behind wholesale prices, Holcomb said, so it takes time for prices at the store to drop. Plus, recovering from the massive avian flu losses will take time.

“Unlike broilers, which come in with a bunch of new chicks and within 6 weeks or so they’re fully grown and ready to be processed and eaten, laying hens take months before they reach their laying potential,” Holcomb explained. It can take 10 months for a laying hen to reach peak maturity, making it hard for producers to bounce back.

Consumer demand for eggs continues to decrease from holiday levels and that is also helping prices, but it still remains high entering the new year compared to 2022.

Right now, retailers are trying to replenish inventory to normal operating levels, and it could be several months before eggs are at the price point that shoppers are used to paying. Even those prices won’t be what they once were, as inflation continues to affect the cost of food across the board.

“Knock on wood, as long as we can avoid another avian flu outbreak like we had last year, then we should see egg prices go down to – not the normal or preferred price – but maybe the inflation-adjusted ‘new normal’ price,” Holcomb said.

The grocery staple has been causing pain at the register for much of the last year, with the average price for a dozen eggs surpassing $3 for only the second time in history.

Imports of shelled eggs and egg products rose to the highest level since June 2017 as egg product manufacturers looked to foreign sources to offset domestic stock shortages. The eggs are mostly coming from Turkey.

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