Egg prices are up, way up, as every grocery shopper has observed. And that’s if you can find eggs on the supermarket shelf.
There have been recent reports of metro Denver grocery stores with no eggs, while other stores have plenty. But the cost is still high. The Denver Post reported the cheapest eggs in town at a Capitol Hill King Soopers costing $5.79 for a dozen.
Nationally, egg prices have soared 60 percent over the past year. Then again so have gasoline prices which were below $2/gallon a couple of years ago. General food inflation is running at a double digit clip. So why are egg prices rising even faster?
Supply and demand both factor into prices. Eggs are considered healthy, unlike in past decades, and people are eating eggs as a good source of protein. In winter months, especially around the holidays, many people are cooking and baking more. Families visiting over the holidays means more breakfasts at home, often involving eggs, and an uptick in demand.
But supply is not keeping up. Avian influenza, or bird flu, is depopulating chicken flocks across the nation. As CNN reported, about 60 million birds are gone, 43 million of those egg-laying hens. Fewer chickens laying fewer eggs sets up an economic fait accompli of an egg shortage.
Beyond the eggs, there is the supply chain. Higher fuel and feed prices mean it costs more to raise and feed the chickens. Chickens need to be kept warm in winter and with higher heating prices, that’s another supply cost, passed along to consumers as higher egg prices.
Of course, the government, which sees conspiracies around every corner, blames big business. “A farm group is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the rise for signs of price gouging from top egg companies”, according to Fox Business.
Unfortunately, the government does not acknowledge its own role in causing and exacerbating inflation, instead blaming private industry. Egg producers have no incentive to “price gouge” as they have competition and grocery store chains will find alternative egg suppliers if specific companies charge more than their competition.
Eggs are likely to remain expensive for much of the upcoming year, but hopefully healthier chicken stocks will replace the sick and lost birds and eggs will once again be plentiful and affordable on grocery store shelves.