Chickens may not fly far, but egg prices have skyrocketed.
A prolonged outbreak of bird flu, combined with soaring feed, fuel and labor costs, has more than doubled US egg prices over the past year and sent shockwaves across the stalls. grocery.
According to the latest government data, the national average price for a dozen eggs reached $3.59 in November, up from $1.72 a year earlier. That puts a strain on consumer budgets and the profits of restaurants, bakeries and other food manufacturers that rely heavily on eggs.
But the price of eggs has risen significantly compared with other foods — even higher than for chicken or turkey — because egg farmers have been hit harder by avian flu. More than 43 million out of 58 million bird is killed in the past year to control the virus is egg-laying, including several farms with more than a million chickens in major egg-producing states like Iowa.
Shopper Nancy Stom said everyone who approached a box of eggs at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Omaha “had an annoyed look on their faces”.
But even with rising costs, eggs are still relatively cheap compared to other proteins like chicken or beef, with an average pound of chicken breast costing $4.42 in November and a pound of ground beef. sold for $4.85, according to reports. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It’s still a cheap meal,” said Stom. However, the 70-year-old said that at this price, she would monitor the eggs more closely in the refrigerator and try not to let them spoil before using.
If prices stay that high, Kelly Fischer said she’ll start thinking more seriously about building a backyard chicken coop in Chicago because everyone in her family eats eggs.
“We (along with the neighbors) are contemplating building a chicken coop at the back of the house, so in the end I hope not to buy them and have my own eggs and I think the cost will play a part. affect that,” the 46-year-old public school teacher said while shopping at HarvestTime Foods on the city’s North Side. “For me, it’s more about the environmental impact and trying to buy locally.”
In some places, it can even be difficult to find eggs on the shelves. But the overall egg supply is increasing as the total flock is down only about 5% from the normal size of about 320 million hens. Farmers have been working to replace their herds as soon as possible after the outbreak.
Jakob Werner, 18, said he tries to find the cheapest eggs possible because he eats five or six a day while trying to gain weight and build muscle.
“For a while, I stopped eating eggs because they were more expensive. But since they’re my favorite food, I ended up going back to them,” said Werner, who lives in Chicago. “So I think I stopped eating eggs for a few months, waiting for the price to drop. It never does. So now I’m buying again.”
Purdue University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk said he believes HPAI is the biggest driver of price increases. Unlike previous years, the virus persisted all summer and created a revived last fall infect egg and poultry farms.
“Avian flu isn’t the only factor, but in my opinion it’s the main driver of what we’re going through right now,” Lusk said.
But the president and chief executive officer of the American Egg Board trade group, Emily Metz, said she believes all of the increased costs farmers have faced over the past year have been a bigger factor in the price increase than they have been. with avian influenza.
“When you’re looking at fuel costs going up, and you’re looking at feed costs up 60 percent, labor costs, packaging costs — all of those things… certainly those are the things. much bigger factor than avian flu,” says Metz.
Jada Thomson, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas, said egg prices could fall slightly over the next few months as egg farmers have gradually replaced their flocks lost to bird flu last year. and demand will ease a bit as people finish with their holiday baking.
However, she said bird flu remains a pandemic that could drive prices higher if there are larger outbreaks at egg farms.
Farmer is do all they can to limit spread, but the disease is highly contagious by migratory wild birds and the virus can get on clothing or vehicles.
“But there are some things that are beyond our control,” Thompson said. “Sometimes you can’t control nature.”
Food manufacturers and restaurants are struggling to find good substitutes for eggs in their recipes.
Patti Stobaugh’s two restaurants and two bakeries in Conway and Russelville, Arkansas would welcome any drop in egg prices as all of her ingredients and supplies are more expensive these days. For some of her baked goods, Stobaugh has turned to the inexpensive frozen egg product, but she still buys eggs for all the breakfasts she serves.
A box of 15 dozen eggs went from $36 to $86 last year, but the flour, butter, chicken, and everything else she bought was also more expensive. That makes her “extremely wary of every little item,” says Stobaugh.
She has increased her price by 8% in the past year and she will probably increase it again soon. It’s a delicate balance of trying not to make eating out too expensive and hurting sales, but she doesn’t have many options while trying to provide for her 175 employees. me.
“We have a lot of employees working for us and we are responsible for paying their weekly wages and supporting their families. We take that very seriously. But it’s definitely tough,” says Stobaugh.
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