Recent price increases have been mostly to do with demand, not avian flu.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

March 22, 2024

3 Min Read
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As typical for this time of year, egg prices are on the rise ahead of the Easter holiday, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert. Prices are lower than what consumers likely paid at the grocery store earlier in the year and sharply lower than what was paid in January 2023, when the average retail price of eggs peaked at about $4.80/dozen due to losses from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

USDA economist Megan Sweitzer reported that eggs over the past month have risen from $2.28/dozen last year to $2.92/dozen, up 8.5% year over year, “largely because of new cases of avian influenza that were detected at the end of last year in November and December.”

The U.S. egg laying flock is currently about 1% smaller than last year because of HPAI. However, Sweitzer added, “we haven’t seen many cases in February and March so far this year, so if that trend continues, that could be good news for egg prices down the line.”

Still, David Anderson, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist at Bryan-College Station said the recent price increases have been mostly to do with demand, a trend that will continue leading up to the Easter holiday.

“We’re actually producing more eggs than we did a year ago, but eggs have a seasonal pattern to them,” he said, “And with Easter being earlier than usual this year, we’re also seeing prices rise earlier than we typically would.”

Holidays tend to drive demand up as consumers purchase more eggs than usual for eating and baking. The Easter holiday demand also includes the purchase of eggs to dye and hide.

Egg prices rising but lower than last month

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, in February the consumer price index for eggs increased 5.8%, which was 17% below the level of 2023, with an average price of $3.00/dozen. This price was 47 cents per dozen higher than in January.

Egg prices peaked in February at $3.29/dozen, according to some weekly USDA Agriculture Marketing Service retail grocery store data, Anderson said.

Last year around the Easter holiday, the USDA reported retail eggs nationally were $2.74/dozen. Anderson said consumers can expect them to be around $2.99/dozen this year.

Anderson expects prices will then decline after the holiday, which is typical, however stores may drop prices closer to Easter if demand isn’t as strong as expected.

“But I don’t think I’d wait until right before Easter to buy your eggs, just in case the demand is stronger than expected,” he said. “You probably don’t want to wait too long to get eggs, especially if you’re planning on using real ones for your Easter egg hunt.”

Ongoing effect of avian influenza

Avian influenza, which has devastated commercial and backyard flocks in the U.S. since the outbreak began in January 2022, has been on the decline so far this year. Only one flock in the state has been infected to date, and that was a backyard flock in the Texas Panhandle, said Greg Archer, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension poultry specialist and associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Poultry Science, Bryan-College Station.

“Since December there have been around 14 million birds lost to avian flu, with the majority being in the upper Midwest,” said Archer. He said while that number may be alarming, the majority – around 11 million — were impacted in December and last month only about 300,000 birds were lost.

Since the start of the outbreak in 2022, over 82 million birds have been affected. As producers have been able to replace the egg-laying hens lost, consumers have seen that reflected in lower egg prices.

“Knock on wood we’ll continue to see those fatality numbers drop,” he said. “Since it hasn’t been as bad this year, I wouldn’t expect egg prices to be as affected by that as much as in past years.”

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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