Egg prices to remain high due to bird flu, economists say

Jan. 29—Egg prices continue to set all-time per-dozen price records, primarily due to a devastating bout of avian influenza that has led to the deaths of tens of millions of commercial poultry in the United States.

Experts say prices for consumers are still trending in the wrong direction.

"Our forecasting model suggests we will see a 27.3-percent price increase for eggs" this year, U.S. Department of Agriculture economist Matt MacLachlan said Friday. "I don't think that this number is out of bounds, unless we see influenza disappear or a very good remedy comes into place."

Add that 27.3 percent to the 137 percent eggs have already gone up, now averaging $4.25 per dozen in December nationally, according to the USDA's retail egg report.

Last year? Eggs were going for $1.79 a dozen.

David Anderson, an AgriLife Extension Service economist, said inflationary pressures and the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history have combined to send egg prices soaring even as we begin to enter peak egg season, the Easter holiday.

Not surprisingly, Anderson said he's been swamped with media requests to talk about it all.

"One reporter in Houston interviewed a backyard producer who told them this is the first time ever that it's been cheaper to produce eggs than buy them at the store," he told Texas A&M AgriLife. "The situation with egg prices is something people are following now, but I think it is also something that happened over the course of time with several factors aligning."

The price of eggs is being hammered on several fronts.

Producers are experiencing higher production costs due to feed and fuel hikes, but Anderson confirmed the main culprit is avian influenza.

The viral disease began to impact the U.S. poultry industry in early 2022 and continues today.

The USDA's Plant Health Inspection Service reports almost 58 million commercial poultry birds — broilers and egg-laying chickens, turkey and other fowl — have been lost to the virus in 46 states.

So with egg inventories down 29 percent in January, prices have gone up.

Given those losses, Anderson said, most producers are trying to add chickens to their flocks.

"We've seen producers respond by building back the flock numbers, but farms are still getting wiped out," A&M's Anderson said.

Not surprisingly, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are confiscating fresh eggs in addition to their usual drug seizures at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Seizures of raw eggs at El Paso-area ports of entry have nearly doubled in the past year and are up more than 300 percent at the Laredo, Tucson and San Diego ports of entry, CBP says.

People attempting to bring undeclared eggs across the border can face fines of up to $1,000.