Is There Really Another Egg Shortage?

This well-loved, affordable protein isn't seeming so affordable anymore—here's why.

Eggs in a carton, one broken
Photo: Mitch Diamond/Getty Images

Last spring we reported on the high cost of eggs, and the reasoning behind the sticker shock at the grocery store. Nine months later, egg prices are still high, and by the looks of it, even higher than they were in 2022. And that's if you can find them! Some shoppers have been seeing completely empty egg shelves at their local grocery stores.

What Is the Current Price of Eggs?

During this week's grocery shopping in the Tampa Bay area, we priced a dozen eggs at local Publix, Sprouts and Whole Foods Market store. We found the lowest-priced eggs this week at Whole Foods, where a dozen of the store brand's 365 Everyday Value cage-free large white grade A eggs rang up at $3.39.

At Sprouts we found the lowest-priced eggs to be the store brand's cage free large grade AA white eggs at $3.49, compared to $2.79 for the same eggs last spring; that's a 25% price increase over last year's dozen of the same eggs.

And at Publix, a dozen of the store brand's large eggs rings up at $5.79, compared to last spring's price of $3.39, for a whopping 70% increase.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index, in December 2022 the cost of eggs rose 60% from the year before and according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the national average for a dozen eggs was $4.25.

Why Are Eggs So Expensive?

In an effort to explain the continuing rise of the cost of eggs, we went right to the experts at the American Egg Board.

"Prices reflect several factors beyond a farmer's control, including inflation and supply chain challenges related to cost and availability of feed and grain, labor, diesel fuel and shipping," Emily Metz, president and CEO of the American Egg Board, said in a statement.

"In addition, intermittent supply disruptions due to bird flu, which has affected egg farms in several states, as well as commercial broiler and turkey farms, have had temporary impacts on commodity pricing," Metz continued. "Eggs farms maintain stringent biosecurity to protect their hens and ensure they can meet customer demand, but sporadic supply disruptions do impact prices."

Why Is There an Egg Shortage?

In February 2022, an outbreak of the bird flu (highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI) impacted the egg industry, the effects of which are still being felt. The Washington Post cites a statistic from the Agriculture Department that the bird flu took out more than 44 million egg-laying hens.

"The flu is the most important factor affecting egg prices," Maro Ibarburu, a business analyst at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University, told The Washington Post. "This outbreak, in terms of egg-laying hens, we lost 10 million more egg-laying hens than the last outbreak in 2015."

"The good news is that egg farms are recovering quickly," said Metz. "In fact, most of the egg farms that were affected by HPAI this year have recovered and are back to producing eggs. Nationwide, according to USDA, we have approximately 6% fewer hens laying eggs right now than we might normally, so egg farms are recovering quickly, but we're not all the way back yet."

A Q&A around food safety and the bird flu released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in April 2015 says that people cannot get bird flu from eating eggs so long as they're properly prepared. Additionally, the Q&A reads, "The chance of infected poultry or eggs entering the food chain is extremely low because of the rapid onset of symptoms in poultry as well as the safeguards USDA has in place, which include testing of flocks, and Federal inspection programs."

When Will the Egg Shortage End and Prices Come Down?

"Egg farmers have been working closely with each other and their customers to ensure everyone has the eggs they need," said Metz. "With more than 300 million egg-laying chickens in this country—almost one bird for every American—isolated shortages are being swiftly corrected.

"Affordable food matters to everyone, and as one of the highest-quality proteins available, eggs remain a great value," she continued. "While egg farmers can't usually set the price of eggs, they're doing everything they can to keep costs down and maintain a steady supply of the nutritious eggs Americans count on."

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