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9 Reasons Why Eggs Are So Expensive Right Now

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The avian flu can't be completely blamed for high egg prices at the supermarket. There are other factors coming into play.

While it's true that eggs are really expensive  these days and the avian flu, otherwise known as bird flu, is sweeping the country again (still?), it can't be solely blamed for the current record-breaking prices for store bought eggs

This isn't the first time that commercial laying flocks have been decimated by the avian flu. And in the past, those losses haven't pushed egg prices up so high. There has to be more to it. So what's going on?

Why are eggs so expensive right now? And how long will prices remain high?

9 Reasons Why Eggs are So Expensive Right Now

There's no denying that the price of everything has been going up and up and up…. but according to the CPI,  the price of eggs has risen more than any other single grocery item. 

The avian flu wiping out millions of commercial laying hens has been blamed, but while it's one factor, it's not the only reason for the high prices. There are other things at play contributing to high egg prices.

In a capitalist society, commodity prices are all about supply and demand. According to Forbes, egg prices, specifically, haven't fluctuated much in the last 40 years - if you can believe that! Supply and demand were pretty much in sync. 

But recent events have created a perfect storm to send eggs prices soaring. Some of the components that are contributing to record egg prices and help to explain why eggs are so expensive right now include:

  • Avian Flu
  • Rising Feed Costs
  • Cage-Free Regulations
  • Higher Gas Prices
  • Seasonal Reduction in Laying
  • The Holidays
  • Popularity of Vegetarian, Meatless and Keto Lifestyles
  • "Designer" Eggs
  • Overall Inflation
  • Eggs Being Eaten At all Meals

Avian Flu is Contributing to High Egg Prices

While it is true that this current strain of the avian flu has been disastrous to commercial egg farmers specifically, wiping out 57.8 million birds to date according to the CDC, which accounts for more than 5% of the total annual US egg consumption, there are a few other factors that have contributed to the high price of eggs - and in some cases, difficulty in even finding eggs to buy.

Just to make up for the reduced number of hens laying eggs on commercial farms, since it takes about 5 months for a pullet to start laying, we can assume that it will take at least that long to resume production and get the egg supply back up to the previous levels.

Rising Feed Costs are Making Eggs More Expensive

The war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia for the past year have driven up the price of wheat since that region supplied more than a third of the world's wheat. In addition, Ukraine was the largest supplier of sunflower seeds in the world. 

So diminished supply which has led to rising costs of seeds and grains have obviously led to higher prices for feed as well. The more an egg farm has to pay to feed the chickens to lay eggs, the higher the price of the eggs will be on store shelves.

As long as there's pressure on grain and seed prices, the price of eggs will likely stay high to cover higher feed costs. 

Unlike backyard hens who can be allowed to roam freely eating grass, weeds and bugs to supplement their diet and reduce the amount of feed they're eating, most commercially raised hens are still stuck inside warehouses. 

And often in cages. 

However, that is changing and is helping to drive up the cost of eggs as well.

New Cage-Free Regulations Resulting in Increased Commercial Egg Costs

Several states, including California, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Utah, have recently imposed (or are in the process of imposing) new rules about how commercial laying hens must be housed. 

Specifically, in response to public outcry, commercial hen houses are going cage-free

This means that instead of being able to keep each chicken in a cage no bigger than a sheet of copy paper, the hens will be allowed to roam freely (well, as freely as they can while still shut up in a huge building).

Converting their facilities to be cage-free is an added cost to egg producers. Additionally, a cage-free environment purportedly leads to aggression between the hens and a higher mortality rate as well as more broken eggs. 

Those additional costs resulting in less efficient production will naturally also be passed along to consumers in the years to come as the percentage of cage-free flocks is expected to rise from 4% in 2010, to the current 28% today, and ultimately to nearly 70% by 2027.

Higher Gas and Transportation Prices are Making Eggs More Expensive

Higher gas prices don't just affect us as the pump when we fill up our cars. Higher gas prices force the price of everything up. It just costs more to get everything from packaging and product to the consumer.

With the price of gas and oil at an all-time high, that means that the transportation cost to get the eggs from the farm to the processing plant and then to store shelves has also risen exponentially. 

Even so-called "local" or "farm fresh" eggs are likely traveling hundreds of miles to your grocery store.

Even Chicken Keepers Need to Buy Eggs Sometimes

Because chickens generally won't lay in the winter unless they are provided with artificial light (and like hens in commercial hen houses are forced to lay year round), the estimated 15 million+ households in the United States who raise backyard flocks of their own are likely having to supplement their diet with store bought eggs, thereby putting more pressure on the commercial market for eggs.

But by early spring, backyard hens should start laying again, leaving the store bought eggs for those not fortunate enough to have their own chickens.

The Holidays

With the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holidays in the rear view mirror, you might think that there wouldn't be such a demand for eggs this time of year as there is prior to the winter baking season, but Easter is right around the corner.

That means that families across the country are going to be in search of eggs to dye and hide for their children. Again resulting in an increase in the demand for eggs. According to Insider, more than 180 million eggs are purchased around Easter, along with 16 million egg-dyeing kits!

The Increase in Popularity of Certain Diets is Making Eggs More Expensive

The increasing popularity of various diets and lifestyle choices including vegetarian, meatless and keto, all of which eggs fit into, has resulted in an increased demand for eggs among US consumers. 

The average American eats nearly 300 eggs per year, up from around 250 per year in 2000. This could also be partly due to the recent Mayo Clinic guidelines okaying up to 7 eggs a week for most individuals.

So-Called "Designer" Eggs Cost More to Produce

The days of only having a dozen plain white eggs for .89 cents in a nondescript styrofoam carton to choose from are over. I think part of the "sticker shock" that shoppers are experiencing is that they're not always comparing apples to oranges, so to speak. 

They're seeing eggs on the grocery store shelves costing $14.99 and more, but that's not your everyday run-of-the-mill cartons of eggs that were hovering around $1/dozen. Those eggs are still in the $2-3/dozen range. 

But nowadays, you can find organic eggs, omega-3 fortified eggs, free range eggs, blue eggs, you name it. All in beautifully designed cartons.  And all of these things add to the cost of producing that dozen eggs. 

Just prior to the other factors coming into play that have caused an increase in egg prices, several brands introduced "designer "eggs to the market that were priced in the $7-8 range. So yes, these eggs have also doubled -to $14-15/dozen.  Price gouging? Maybe, but these eggs do also cost more to produce.

Eggs that are fortified with Omega-3 supplements come with an added cost to the producer for the flax supplements, so those eggs cost more. 

Organic eggs cost more because the cost of organic feed is greater and there are other stipulations for farms selling organic eggs, including more space for the chickens, all of which add to the end cost of the eggs. 

Blue eggs generally will cost more because blue egg laying breeds are not only not as consistent layers as the leghorn, for example, that lays white eggs, but also because those breeds are larger and need to eat more feed in order to produce their eggs. That means the farmer needs to sell their blue eggs for more money. 

So to compare the .89/dozen eggs that were selling last year to a blue, organic, pasture raised dozen of eggs selling for $15 isn't a valid comparison. 

Overall Inflation is Making Eggs More Expensive

Because the cost of other proteins including beef, chicken and pork are also rising, this is keeping the demand for eggs high, according to CNBC, as more Americans turn to eggs are an alternative protein source. 

Even though eggs have risen substantially higher percentage-wise than other foods, they are still a fairly affordable (and complete) protein. Not to mention that they are incredibly versatile and easy to cook.

Here's a segment I recently did for Scripps News Live talking about the price of eggs.

Eggs Aren't Just for Breakfast Any More!

And lastly, maybe all of you who have bought a copy of my cookbook ( 15,000 copies sold and counting!) and are incorporating eggs into more than just breakfast are putting an increased demand on the egg supply! 

Which of course would keep prices high.  And which is another great reason to think about raising some chickens of your own! 

The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook available anywhere you buy your books.

According to everything I've read, eggs have likely hit their high and prices should be coming down in the coming months, but we're looking at another six months at least of elevated egg prices.  And they will most likely not return to their previous lows.

Need more reasons to start raising your own flock? I didn't think so.

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