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Not eggs-actly cheap: Supplies tighten as Easter approaches


It appears consumers will pay more for eggs this Easter and beyond compared to last year.

A significant drop in production along with strong demand recently pushed wholesale table egg prices to more than $3 per dozen, up 170 percent from a year ago, according to the CME Group’s Daily Livestock Report (DLR).

The sharp increase in prices was due in large part to recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Nationwide, at least 11 million layers have been lost to the potent virus, according to a CoBank report, while estimates this month suggest total losses could reach 18 million birds, or 5.5 percent of the layer supply, DLR reported.

“The impact of HPAI on the egg production industry has been devastating, which is also what the industry experienced in 2015,” DLR authors noted. “If 2015 is any guide, we could see more outbreaks and losses in the next two months, further worsening the egg supply situation and pricing.”

With USDA reporting new cases of HPAI almost daily and depopulation of operations ranging from dozens to millions of birds, estimating total expected losses remains challenging, according to CoBank.

USDA’s weekly shell egg demand indicator showed about five days of inventory on hand at the start of the month, which suggests a snug but not alarmingly tight supply, CoBank noted. However, it does not appear supplies will be able to accommodate the reduction in layers as a result of HPAI outbreaks, especially at a regional level.

The outbreak of HPAI is the latest blow to the egg layer industry, which is dealing with skyrocketing feed prices and struggled with a lack of packaging equipment and supplies needed for grocery sales at the height of the COVID pandemic.

“U.S. producers have been hard-pressed to align supplies with market demand over the last two years,” said Brian Earnest, lead animal protein economist with CoBank.

“The U.S. layer flock typically expands ahead of the surge in demand for Easter and contracts during the summer months,” he continued. “But recent losses due to HPAI have combined with high feed costs and other challenges that are severely limiting flock size management.”

Overall, protein for Easter meals is expected to be more expensive than in years past. The lamb cutout value has averaged more than $6 per pound so far this year, down slightly from a record value of $6.39 per pound last August, but still well above average.

Meanwhile, the wholesale boneless beef ribeye price has averaged $8.43 per pound this year, more than $1 above the five-year average, ham prices remain above the five-year average and broiler prices gained 20 percent the first quarter of this year to $1.60 per pound, DLR reported.

Losses from HPAI also could affect sales to other countries. The U.S. exported 16.8 million dozen eggs in January, down 35 perhaps compared to last year, the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council reported.

And, while the value of chicken and turkey exports increased in January due to higher prices, volumes decreased 4.5 percent for chicken and 16.2 percent for turkey.

USDA’s world ag supply and demand estimates project broiler sales could decline as higher prices reduce export opportunities. The forecast for turkey exports was lowered due in part to HPAI-related import restrictions to Mexico.

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit

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