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Moderate U.S. poultry, egg production impact from avian flu likely

USDA lowers egg production forecast, raises price forecast due to virus.

Krissa Welshans

January 15, 2024

2 Min Read
Chayanan/ iStock

A moderate impact to production in 2024 is likely in poultry and egg production as almost 20 million commercial poultry were depopulated from November to December, according to Brian Earnest, CoBank’s lead economist for animal protein. The bulk of the total was in egg laying hens, but there were also quite a few turkey breeder facilities as well as a handful of broiler breeders affected, he said.

Since the beginning of the year, outbreaks in table egg laying operations appear to have slowed, but USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) data shows two table egg pullet operations, one in Kansas and one in California, have still led to the depopulation of just over 1 million birds.

From an egg market perspective, Earnest said the U.S. is now in a lull for egg demand, and supply is at seasonal peak. The timing of the impact to supply, he suggested, means it could be less impactful to prices nearby than what occurred at the tail end of 2022. Still, Easter is right around the corner, and it is early this year, so the next demand stretch is not too far off, he added.

“If the HPAI outbreak remains unsettled, it will impact supply for that timeframe, as well,” he said. “Retailers preparing for heightened use are planning their marketing plans, which will undoubtedly include eggs.”

Earnest said he is also hearing that cage-free operations have been especially affected, providing inconsistent supply for that program.

USDA releases updated 2024 forecasts

The USDA released the latest “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates” report Friday. The agency lowered its 2024 egg production forecast to 9.33 billion dozen “due to reductions of the layer flock as a result of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)-related culling through early January.” It raised its 2024 egg price forecast from $1.50/doz. to $1.65/doz.

Also newly published, the Consumer Price Index revealed that egg prices from November to December rose 8.9%, up from a 2.2% increase from October to November.

In the WASDE report, USDA also lowered its 2024 turkey production forecast to 5.47 billion lbs. for the first half of 2024 based on hatchery data and expected pressure from lower prices. The price forecast was lowered from $1.27/lb. to $1.11/lb.

Contrarily, USDA raised its 2024 broiler production forecast to 46.68 billion lbs. for the first half based on recent hatchery data. The price forecast was also raised from $1.24/lb. to $1.26/lb.

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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