The deadliest bird flu in history "detonated" American eggs! Expert: High egg prices are expected to continue until Q1
While U.S. inflation has recently begun to show signs of cooling, egg prices have soared to new highs amid the outbreak of the deadliest bird flu in history, making it the most eye-catching item on Americans’ year-end bills.
The average price of eggs rose 49.1% in November from a year earlier, the largest increase of any grocery item over the same period, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation. In contrast, the dominant "household food" category rose 12%.
The rise is even worse when measured in terms of the price of a dozen Grade A eggs, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The price of Grade A eggs more than doubled to $3.59 in November from $1.72 a year earlier.
In response, Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in food economics, warned that egg price increases "could continue into the first quarter of 2023."
The culprit: bird flu
Economists say the price volatility is largely due to the deadliest outbreak of bird flu in U.S. history, which has killed millions of laying hens this year.
“A lot of things have changed since 2020,” Lapp said, “but in the egg market, the latest surge is extraordinary.”
About 57.8 million birds will be infected with avian influenza in 2022, according to USDA data as of December 28. These figures include birds such as turkeys and ducks. Bird flu is relatively rare in the U.S., with the last outbreak affecting 50.5 million birds in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Before that, bird flu hadn't been seen for at least 10 or 20 years, Lapp said.
Bird flu is "highly contagious". The virus is extremely lethal: It kills 90% to 100% of chickens, typically within 48 hours, according to the CDC. Brian Moscogiuri, global trade strategist at egg supplier Eggs Unlimited, said farmers often have to kill the remaining birds, not by choice but because of federal rules designed to prevent transmission.
About 40 million laying hens have died from bird flu this year, Moscogiuri said. As of Dec. 1, there were 375 million eggs in the U.S., down 5% from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The number of eggs drops in sync. According to data released by the USDA on December 20, egg production in November was about 8.9 billion, down from 9.7 billion in December 2021.
"It's a supply disruption, an 'act of God' type thing," Moscogiuri said. He called the situation "unprecedented".