Because avian flus are both deadly and contagious – farmers may be euthanized to control the spread of the disease. Many farms cannot reopen until they do a thorough sanitation of their facilities and no avian flu is detected.
“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. According to the CDC, mortality rate of HPAI is between 90-100% in just 48 hours.
Farmers assumed the outbreak was over in June but a second wave hit farms around the world between September and December. The lack of eggs coupled with inflation rates has increased the price of eggs all over the country.
Stores and restaurants have reported a significant increase in not only the price of eggs but also the cost of chicken feed and egg cartons, highlighting the significant impact to the industry.
Ron Eichner, owner of Eichner’s Farm Market in Pittsburgh, PA explained that “I had to take the prices up 25% just in the last 4 months... jumbo is $5.20 a dozen, extra-large $5.10 and large $5 a dozen.”
To get an idea of how much eggs have increased – Taki Kastanis, CEO and founder of Chicago-based restaurant chain Yolk, told The Washington Post, “Eggs, on average, maybe five or six years ago were about $18 a case [15 dozen],” Taki Kastanis, “Now we’re paying upward of $70 a case.”
This isn’t the first time that an avian flu has disrupted the egg supply chain. Back in 2015, an avian flu (H5N5) effected turkeys and chickens in the Midwestern region of the United States. While it mainly effected turkeys – many egg-laying hens contracted the disease or had to be culled to stop the spread. Like in 2022 – the average price of eggs skyrocketed – increasing about 120% back in 2015. The outbreak was assumed to be caused by migratory waterfowl.
The avian flu got so bad this year that Mexico has begun to vaccinate egg-laying hens especially those in high-risk areas. Over 52,000 birds in Mexico were affected by the avian flu in 2022.
Because wild birds migrate in the Spring bringing with them the avian flu, we won’t know for sure if the avian flu has subsided for a few months. For now, experts believe the avian flu is subsiding. According to USDA data, the price of eggs have fallen 13% in the past two weeks. Today a dozen eggs will cost consumers an average of $4.7034, a staggering difference from the $1.36508 in January 2022. It will still be a while until grocery stores have a consistent supply of eggs on their shelves and an even longer time until customers see a decrease in prices. So for now customers will have to continue paying upwards of $7 per dozen.