Egg Prices Continue To Soar As Bird Flu Spreads Through 30 States

chicken farm Eggs down in morning.
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The avian flu outbreak throughout the country is sending egg prices soaring, as flocks raised for their eggs had to be destroyed to avoid a further spread. The economic repercussions of ongoing depopulation efforts have yet to be fully calculated or projected.

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The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has reported around 30 states being affected by the outbreak, most recently Pennsylvania and Utah, according to an April 16 announcement.

“State officials quarantined the affected premises, and birds on the properties will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flocks will not enter the food system,” the USDA said.

While no cases have been reported among people in the U.S. so far — and the risk to public health is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — NBC reported that the outbreak is affecting consumers’ lives in the form of rising egg and poultry prices.

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For example, the average weekly price for large eggs is up 44% compared with this time last year per the USDA, NBC noted.

The USDA detailed that egg prices increased by 2.2% in Feb. 2022, according to an announcement. “An ongoing outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza could contribute to poultry and egg price increases through reduced supply or decrease prices through lowered international demand for U.S. poultry products or eggs… Poultry prices are now predicted to increase between 6% and 7% percent and egg prices are predicted to increase between 2.5% and 3.5%.”

In addition, the USDA predicts wholesale poultry prices to increase between 9% and 12% in 2022.

Grady Ferguson, senior research analyst for Gro Intelligence, an agriculture data platform, told the Washington Post that this outbreak has the potential to be more significant and disruptive to the poultry and egg markets than the last major outbreak of bird flu in 2015.

“We are above and beyond the rate of spread we saw in 2015,” Ferguson told the Washington Post. “Last time, 81% of the cases were in the fourth and fifth month, as things exploded. What chicken egg prices did last time affected the market for years. We are two months into the outbreak now, and the safety protocols haven’t worked. I don’t want to be a Chicken Little, but I think it’s going to be worse than last time.”

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In  addition to higher prices for a carton of a dozen eggs, consumers “will see higher prices for all baked goods and a wide variety of processed foods from cupcakes to salad dressing. Restaurants are going to have a harder time justifying why they should give you a three-egg omelet for a dollar. And on the chicken meat side, the situation is also worse this time than it was last time,” he told the Washington Post.

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This all comes against the backdrop of world food commodity prices making a significant leap in March — up 12.6% from February — representing their highest levels ever as the Russia-Ukraine war spread shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils, as GOBankingRates reported. The data referenced was provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on April 8. These prices were also 33.6% higher than those recorded in March 2021.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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