"Eggflation," explained

By now, you’ve probably come across quite a few memes and TikToks about the price of eggs. Let’s take a look at how “Eggflation” came to be, and why you should maybe take a beat before Googling where to buy chickens…

How Avian Flu has increased the price of eggs

In January 2022, an avian flu epidemic broke out. It was the biggest outbreak since 2015, except this outbreak has lasted longer and killed more birds. About 44 million egg-laying hens across 47 U.S. states either died from the flu or were killed to control the spread. By December 2022, a dozen Grade A large eggs cost an average of $4.25, more than double what they cost the December prior. Dominant egg producers pointed to the avian flu, among other reasons, as to why prices rose.

What is inflation?

Some grocery stores struggled to keep their shelves filled and others even started limiting how many eggs customers could buy. Meanwhile, many chose to cope with humor. The cost of egg production also rose for several reasons. Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and grains, which farms use as chicken feed. The war in Ukraine decreased their exports in 2022, which limited supply and drove up prices. And due to inflation, the price of fuel, labor and packaging also increased.

What does the war in Ukraine have to do with U.S. oil?

“It did not justify 138% increase in the price of eggs at the grocery store”

But do all of these factors really justify the staggering price increase we saw with eggs? In January 2023, Farm Action, a farmers’ advocacy group, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to look into price gouging among dominant egg producers. Pointing to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Action says the impact of the avian flu outbreak on the country’s egg-laying hen population may have been overstated. 

Inflation is up …

The reality is that at no time did the number of hens decrease more than 6 to 8% in any given month. The hens that were still producing actually produced more eggs in 2022 per hen than they did the previous year. So what we found was that the net effect was closer to 3 to 4% fewer eggs in the market. It did not justify 138% increase in the price of eggs at the grocery store to the consumers”, explained Joe Maxwell, President of Farm Action.

Cal-Maine Foods saw record profits in 2022

Cal-Maine Foods, the largest egg producer in the U.S., saw record profits in 2022.Their egg prices had increased along with the prices of other eggs on the market, but none of Cal-Maine’s facilities ever reported an outbreak of the avian flu. So, was there foul play? That’s for the FTC to look into. But in the meantime, things are looking up. According to recent data, egg prices dropped over 50% since the start of 2023. 

And if you’ve been thinking about buying chickens to save on the cost of eggs, well, you’re not alone. In interviews with the NY Times, several hatcheries reported higher demand from first-time buyers due to egg prices. But it’s important to know that hens only start laying eggs at about six months of age and that raising chickens comes with its own set of costs …