Egg prices hit historic highs amid bird flu outbreak and inflation concerns

Egg prices hit historic highs amid bird flu outbreak and inflation concerns

Egg prices hit historic highs amid bird flu outbreak and inflation concerns

Fans of three-egg omelettes and bacon and cheese sandwiches have more to worry about than high cholesterol. The wholesale price of a dozen eggs has more than quadrupled year-on-year, and some experts are warning prices aren’t likely to drop any time soon.

Egg prices peaked during the holiday season, hurting small grocery chains that can’t compete with big chains and driving price increases for restaurants and other small businesses, experts said. The rise in egg prices also comes as the cost of most foods has risen dramatically, putting a strain on grocery shoppers and small business owners.

Egg prices hit historic highs amid bird flu outbreak and inflation concerns

Caption: The most affordable 12-egg carton at the Gristedes supermarket above costs more than $5, while larger supermarkets like Whole Foods can undercut smaller competitors with $3 cartoons.

ABC News

“I’ve been here 50 years, I’ve never seen anything like this with price controls, maybe with Carter in the 70s,” said Gus Benetos, owner of Manhattan’s Westside Restaurant.

Urner Barry, a company that publishes ‘fair market prices’ for items like eggs, meat and plant-based protein, pegged the wholesale value of a dozen ‘Midwest Large’ eggs at 89 cents on December 22, 2021. One year later. , the price of a dozen eggs has skyrocketed to $5.46, according to Karyn Rispoli, editor of Urner Barry’s Egg Price Current. The price broke the previous high of $3.09 during the pandemic.

“We blew that previous high away from the water,” Rispoli said.

PHOTO: The wholesale value of standard grocery eggs has increased exponentially in 2022, peaking at over five dollars during the holiday season.

The wholesale value of standard grocery eggs has grown exponentially in 2022, peaking at over five dollars during the holiday season.

Via Urner Bary

From the holiday peak, Rispoli noted that the egg market has since “corrected” to $4.33 on Jan. 10, mostly due to lower demand after the holiday season. However, with the avian flu epidemic continuing to affect US poultry farmers, Rispoli said the price is likely to remain high for the time being.

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu have killed nearly 40 million hens since February 2021, or 5% of the US chicken flock, according to a spokesperson for the US Department of Agriculture. Egg production has also fallen by 4% since 2021, the spokesperson said.

Mark Sauder, CEO of Sauder Eggs, one of the nation’s largest family egg wholesalers, said he believes the biggest factor impacting business is avian flu.

“That particular strain or that particular outbreak seems to last longer,” he said.

Although the wholesale price rose steadily, consumers felt the delayed impact of the price increase due to a few egg-specific factors.

First, short-term egg demand is inelastic, according to Bruce Sacerdote, professor of economics at Dartmouth College. Their status as a low-cost staple in grocery stores and a necessity in many recipes and diets leads many consumers to continue buying eggs in the short term despite price increases.

The USDA spokesperson said eggs are still one of the most competitive proteins at the grocery store compared to other animal proteins. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in November a 10% annual increase in the overall cost of food.

“It’s gone up, but as a percentage of my other food expenses, it’s like it hasn’t had as much of an impact,” Leonard Chung, a Manhattan grocer, said of the cost of eggs. .

Second, according to Rispoli, many grocery stores use a “loss leader” tactic, artificially lowering the price of eggs to attract consumers. Grocery stores recoup losses when shoppers buy other items with a higher profit margin. According to the USDA, a 12-pack of Grade A brown eggs cost consumers an average of $3.99 the week of Dec. 23, while the wholesale price was significantly higher.

“Even though the market was growing quite dramatically, consumers weren’t always seeing those prices at mainstream grocery stores,” Rispoli said.

Sharmilla Dabieden, a Queens resident who went to Whole Foods in Tribeca to drive down egg prices, was one of the beneficiaries of this pricing approach. After seeing eggs advertised at around $3.29, she loaded her cart with three cartons of eggs.

“We need eggs, so I shop around and look online to see where I can get the cheapest,” Dabieden said.

PHOTO: Sharmilla Dabieden grabs three cartons of eggs from Whole Foods, heading to Tribeca from Queens for more affordable prices.

Sharmilla Dabieden grabs three cartons of eggs from Whole Foods, heading to Tribeca from Queens for more affordable prices.

ABC News

According to Rispoli, the rise in egg prices is starting to be felt by consumers despite these two factors.

As prices fall, small businesses will feel the impact of rising prices alongside consumers.

“The smaller independent chains, the regional chains, you know, they’ve had a hard time offering those same kinds of discounts, and so they’ve really taken a hit in terms of sales numbers,” Rispoli noted.

At the Westside Restaurant, the archetypal Greek restaurant in Manhattan, the cost of eggs and food squeezed profit margins. Benetos said a case of eggs — 30 dozen eggs — went from $90 to $160 in a matter of months, and other food costs went up 30-40%, driving price increases. throughout the menu. His son Nikos Benetos noted that they had priced a recent daily special – a feta cheese, broccoli and tomato omelette – at over $19.

PHOTO: With food prices globally rising 30-40%, Westside restaurant hangs a copy of its menu in a window rather than permanently installing it;  it's easier that way when the prices change depending on the owner.

With food prices rising 30-40% globally, the Westside restaurant hangs a copy of its menu in a window rather than permanently installing it; it’s easier that way when the prices change depending on the owner.

ABC News

At an Upper West Side coffee cart, employee Santi Sayago said the price of eggs had risen 150% in six months, making it difficult to make a 50-cent profit on a bacon-egg sandwich -cheese.

Abi Coffey, manager of the Think Coffee chain, noted that they had raised the price of egg sandwiches by a dollar over the past year, leading to complaints from customers.

According to Sacerdote, when consumers begin to recognize rising grocery prices, it could validate concerns about inflation.

“I think that’s probably how people realize how bad inflation is when they get their fuel bill for their house, their gas bill for their car, and their food bill,” he said. said Priest.

While costs have come down recently, experts say it could take months for prices to fully return to normal levels.

“Let it continue until 2023; obviously I don’t have a crystal ball, but all the signs point to it,” Rispoli said.

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