Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
Eggs in carton

Why are eggs so expensive in the U.S. these days?

Posted April 05, 2023 by Dr. Nestor Adriatico, Poultry Technical Services Manager and Peter Mumm, Account Manager – Layers

We have become accustomed to seeing egg prices go up around the holidays due to increased demand. But now that the holidays are over, why are prices remaining more than double from a year ago, with places like California reporting prices over $7 per dozen? Inflation and increased feed prices are some fundamental aspects of the price increase, but the main reason for historically high egg prices is that there are just not enough commercial egg layers to meet the demand for eggs.

The shortage of layers started last year when the United States had one of its worst outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in history. U.S. poultry farmers culled 56 million birds in 47 states over the past year. Of the birds culled, 43 million—or 76.7%—were from laying chickens that produce table eggs. The loss of these birds has caused a drastic drop in table egg production of more than 13% from the normal level of production.

Why are layer farms so heavily impacted?

Although fewer layer farms were infected with HPAI compared to turkey and broiler farms, the consolidated nature of layer farms forces farmers to cull more laying hens to control the spread. As an example, two layer farms in Iowa that were infected with HPAI had to depopulate more than 10 million layers. That is more than 8 million fewer eggs in the supply chain every day.

The HPAI outbreak remains an ongoing threat. New cases in commercial flocks are still being observed every week. Historically, HPAI cases increase during spring when wild birds are migrating north. With Easter coming soon, increased feed cost, inflation and the loss of supply, egg prices are expected to remain high. The ongoing decrease in layers will continue to put pressure on supply and keep prices high. There are just not enough layers to supply the demand.

An infected layer farm usually takes at least three months to cull infected flocks and disinfect the farm. The houses will not be filled immediately since there are a limited number of replacement chicks and pullets available, and the replacements will need to be grown for at least five months before they start laying eggs. To minimize the impact of this shortfall, some farms have chosen to molt or even double molt their spent hens to lengthen their productive life. In short, it will take more than a year for the infected layer farms to return to their normal capacity.

The last commercial layer farm infected with HPAI was in December 2022. This year, HPAI infections in commercial turkey and broiler flocks have already been detected across the United States. The U.S. appears to be following the trend in Europe, where they’ve experienced HPAI outbreaks for three consecutive years and counting.

What does the future hold?

The poultry industry continues to work on solutions, such as vaccinations and improved biosecurity. However, trade, political and regulatory issues need to be resolved before the poultry industry can vaccinate for HPAI and reduce the risk to the layer supply and egg prices.

Hopefully, the industry will overcome this latest challenge in a timely and effective way.

To learn more about mitigating the risk of avian influenza, contact your ARM & HAMMER representative today.




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About Dr. Nestor Adriatico and Peter Mumm

Nestor Adriatico, DVM, serves as Poultry Technical Services Manager at Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production. He has more than three decades of professional experience in poultry health and management, having worked with broiler breeder, layer breeder and commercial layer operations around the world.

Peter Mumm, Account Manager - Layers at Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production, has worked within the poultry industry in various operations and managerial roles since earning his B.S. in Poultry Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison nearly three decades ago.



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