Is Egg Inflation Finally Cracking?

Vivian Dong '24

It certainly does look like the Easter Bunny will be making it big this year. Even a quick omelette breakfast quickly became a luxury meal as egg retail prices soared by nearly 60% in 2022 [1]. Will we ever be able to enjoy our scrambled eggs and quiches again without breaking our wallets? Why exactly are egg prices increasing so perilously?

In addition to “normal” pandemic inflationary pressures, an outbreak of avian flu has caused this perplexing phenomenon. The avian flu killed more than 44 million hens in commercial flocks since just February 2022 [1]. This has significantly disrupted egg production, leading to skyrocketing prices. Typically, when a case of avian flu is detected, farmers cull (selectively reduce) their flocks to prevent the spread of disease [2]. However, this has considerable effects on the egg supply as it takes months for the farm to produce and sell eggs at normal levels again.

As a result, prices catapulted. In 2021, a dozen large Grade A eggs cost consumers an average of $1.79 but by December 2022, the average price reached a whopping $4.25 [2]. Egg prices grew faster than almost any other good, ballooning 60% in addition to the already high 12% increase in grocery prices as a whole [1]. Furthermore, these inflated egg prices have trickled into a variety of other related food items ranging from mayonnaise to cookies to noodles, custards, and salad dressings [1]. In our egg-loving nation, this inflation has just made weekly shopping trips a whole lot more expensive.

But not only is the avian flu causing chicken flocks to shrink, egg inflation itself has also been sapping flocks dry. Recently, a growing portion of Americans have become interested in growing and raising their own food. As egg prices skyrocketed, many Americans began buying chicks that would eventually grow into egg-laying hens and provide them with their beloved omelettes and egg-salad sandwiches. However, this has placed a lot of pressure on hatcheries across the nation as people rush to buy their very own egg producing machine. For example,  Ginger Stevenson from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa describes how the hatchery has been running short on heavy egg-laying breeds due to an influx of people seeking to buy them [3]. 

But the big inflation egg may finally be cracking and we may finally be at the end of our months-long battle. Wholesale egg prices have collapsed these past few weeks from a peak of $5.43 per dozen eggs on December 19 to $2.61 on February 6 [2]. Angel Rubio, a senior analyst at Urner Barry, explains that on average, it takes about four weeks for retail prices to reflect changes in wholesale prices. Rubio predicts that for every 10% increase or decrease in wholesale egg prices, consumers can expect a 2% shift in retail egg prices [2].

While other factors, such as the price of corn for raising chickens, also influence egg prices, the future for egg-lovers looks promising. Sky-high egg prices have been a major source of stress for many shoppers over the past few months. But thankfully, dropping egg inflation may be just what we all need to get a good night’s sleep.