Why are egg prices so high? Avian flu, inflation to blame

In the week leading up to Christmas, the average price for eggs was 267% higher than it was at the beginning of 2022, according to the USDA.

Although inflation is showing signs of cooling, many Americans are still paying high prices for everyday items such as groceries.

In posts on TikTok and Twittersome people claim that the price of eggs has rose significantly in recent months.

Google search data show people are wondering whether the price increase is tied to a bird flu outbreak in the US

THE QUESTION

Have egg prices increased due to a bird flu outbreak?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, egg prices have increased in recent months due to a bird flu outbreak. Inflation is also a contributing factor to price increases.

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WHAT WE FOUND

Government data show a “very sharp increase” in egg prices over the past year, Steve Reed, senior economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index Program, told VERIFY.

The increase in egg prices is largely driven by two factors: a bird flu outbreak that’s led to the loss of tens of millions of egg-laying hens, and inflation, experts say.

BLS data show that the national average price for a dozen large, Grade A eggs hit $3.59 in November 2022, up from $1.72 one year earlier.

More recently, in the week leading up to Christmas, the average price for eggs was 267% higher than it was at the beginning of 2022 and 210% higher than the same time one year earlier, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) .

“Lower-than-usual shell egg inventories near the end of the year, combined with increased demand stemming from the holiday baking season, resulted in several successive weeks of record high egg prices,” the USDA said.

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Egg supply has decreased in recent months due to a deadly outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that began in February 2022. Avian flu viruses are very contagious and highly lethal in birds.

More than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost by the end of the year due to avian flu deaths or disease-control depopulation since the outbreak began, the USDA said. Those losses were spread in two waves from February to June, and from September to December.

“I think most people who look at this industry have attributed the avian flu to being a big part of what’s happening,” Reed said. “It sharply affects the supply of eggs and that causes the price to be pushed up.”

Another factor contributing to rising egg prices is high inflation, which has led to increased production costs.

“The supply combined with our inflationary issues have really driven prices to where they are at right now,” Bernt Nelson, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said.

Although “recent record high egg prices have begun to soften,” the USDA said in a report on Jan. 6, it will take some time before shoppers see significant changes at the grocery store.

There’s still a level of unpredictability when it comes to egg prices, too, due to the potential for more avian flu outbreaks, Nelson said.

“If we see high outbreaks and this continues to affect some of our bird populations, we’re going to see prices continue to stay high,” he added.

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