Jan 22, 2023 - Economy & Business

Why high egg prices remain at “unappetizing levels”

Data: Instacart; Map: Axios Visuals

The price of eggs is now so high it has sparked a flock of memes pointing out that it's now probably too expensive to egg your enemy's house.

The big picture: Retail prices of eggs have “begun to ease,” according to a recent USDA report. But consumers (and the internet) are still facing historically high prices for a dozen large eggs, which just jumped another 66 cents on average in December, up to $4.25.

  • The protein's price increased nearly 60% in December compared to a year earlier, according to the recent Consumer Price Index released last week.
  • In a new USDA report Friday, the federal agency said consumer demand continues to decline and “shell egg prices remain at unappetizing levels in retail outlets relative to other proteins.”

Any retreat from December's record highs isn't quite reaching the consumer yet.

  • Another meme showed a mocked-up jewelry ad touting "He went to Kroger" with an egg instead of a ring.
  • Brian Moscogiuri, a global trade strategist at Eggs Unlimited, an egg supplier based in Irvine, California, told Axios retail pricing often lags the wholesale market and there is traditionally a 20% to 30% drop from seasonal highs to January and February lows.
  • Experts expect inflated prices to decline in the first half of 2023 due to the decrease in demand for eggs after the holidays,” Curt Covington, senior director of partner relations at AgAmerica, told Axios.
  • “But if input costs continue to increase and the bird flu continues to kill large quantities of hens the costs will likely be passed on to consumers," Covington said.

Between the lines: The avian influenza outbreak or bird flu that began in February 2022 is a key factor in the price hike.

  • The outbreak has killed approximately 60 million birds, which includes 41 million commercial egg-laying hens, Karyn Rispoli, editor of the Egg Price Current for Urner Barry, recently told Axios.
  • Egg farms are recovering but there are 6% fewer hens laying eggs, Emily Metz, American Egg Board president & CEO, said in a statement to Axios, citing recent USDA data.

The good news is that while egg prices were up, overall, U.S. consumers got a reprieve from soaring costs in December as the index declined on a monthly basis, the first drop since last summer, Axios’ Courtenay Brown reports.

Eggs in refrigerator case at a store with sign saying "Due to recent market conditions, our egg retail has increased. We apologize for any inconvenience."
Some stores have egg purchasing limits. Photo: Kelly Tyko/Axios
Most expensive and cheapest egg prices

By the numbers: Instacart shared a breakdown of state average egg prices with Axios that shows how much customers paid on the platform in December for a dozen eggs. The Instacart data shows:

  • Eggs were over $6 a dozen in Arizona, California, Nevada, Alabama, Florida and Hawaii, with Hawaii having the most expensive eggs at $9.73.
  • Six Midwest states — Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska and Missouri — had eggs under $4.50 a dozen with Missouri having the cheapest eggs at $4.24 a dozen.

Of note: Retailers set prices on the Instacart marketplace, the company said, noting some set prices that are different than in-store prices. Fees and limits can also apply.

Egg shortages “isolated”

Limited egg supply because of the bird flu is also impacting prices.

  • Reports of egg shortages have also been on the rise, including in Colorado, where a new state law requires locally raised chickens be cage-free if their eggs are sold in grocery stores, Alayna Alvarez reports for Axios Denver.
  • Shoppers on Facebook, including several Costco groups across the country, are routinely posting how their clubs and stores have had limited egg supplies and asking others where they’ve found eggs and pricing.
  • Isolated shortages are "being swiftly corrected,” Metz said.

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