What’s for breakfast? Probably not eggs, as expensive as they’ve become. And with an interesting twist: whole chicken prices are coming down as egg prices go up, it’s probably cheaper to eat the whole bird for breakfast.
With the overall increase in other grocery prices, the rise in egg prices – one of America’s most consumed proteins — is particularly debilitating. Only margarine prices have risen more, according to the consumer price index, a key barometer of inflation.
Back in January 2022, a dozen large eggs cost roughly $1.50, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, average costs now hover closer to $4.20.
At the same time, the price of chicken has gone down by 1%. To the average consumer, that opposite movement may not make sense. It’s largely attributable to one of the worst-ever outbreaks of bird flu in the U.S., which has killed a large share of egg-laying birds but not those raised for meat consumption.
About 50.3 million birds have been impacted by the virus since early February, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bird flu is relatively rare in America. The last time it impacted American poultry was 2015 when a record 50.5 million birds were impacted, the CDC said. Prior to that, the flu hadn’t occurred in America for over a decade.
Avian flu, which generally occurs in wild birds such as ducks and geese, is very contagious and lethal. It kills 90% to 100% of chickens, often within 48 hours, according to the CDC.
Farmers generally must kill their remaining birds — not by choice but due to federal rules meant to prevent spread, Brian Moscogiuri, a global trade strategist at Eggs Unlimited, told NBC.
As of November, about 37 million egg-laying hens have died since the beginning of 2022, Moscogiuri said. That accounts for about 10% of U.S. production.
Avian flu has typically been associated with spring migration and disappears by summer, but this time it appeared in September and is impacting the delivery of eggs just at the peak of holiday baking season.
So, this very large increase in eggs prices is predominately separate from other inflations, but a portion of the increase can be attributed to overall inflationary prices like an increase in transportation costs and farmers are attributing a portion of the price increase to the increasing price they’re paying for bird food.
Elevated egg prices “could last into the first quarter of 2023,” projects Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in food economics.
Decrease in chicken meat prices
Meanwhile, chicken prices fell about 1.3% in October. The wholesale price of chicken breast had fallen below $1.20 a pound, a third of its peak around $3.60 over the summer, Lapp said.
The price of boilers is down mostly due to an increase in production. Despite the recent price reduction, chicken prices are still up 14.5% compared with October 2021.
What’s the price of eggs at your supermarket? Let us know the price and the location in the comments.