The Real Reason Egg Prices May Be Higher Than Ever

You might want to replace your breakfast scramble for a toasted bagel because the price of eggs is about to get even higher. According to the Consumer Price Index published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (via USA Today), by February 2022, egg prices had already jumped 11.4% since the year prior — and that's not exactly the spot you want to be in ahead of Easter season.

Eggs typically get more expensive from late March to early April every year, due to an increase in consumer demand surrounding the holiday. This year, however, the average weekly price is 44% higher compared to 2021. But while prices of food going up is nothing new amid the global supply chain crisis, there's another factor altogether affecting eggs.

CFO and Vice President of Cal Maine Foods Max Bowman told local ABC station WAPT that it's actually bird flu that's disrupting supply. As he explained, 18 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. have reportedly been infected, which makes up 6% of the national flock. "That's enough disruption, particularly here on a high season like Easter, one of our high seasons, that that begins to change the economics of our market," Bowman told the outlet.

When will egg prices go back to normal?

Considering the 2022 bird flu outbreak is the deadliest one in seven years, it could be a while before you see eggs on sale again at your local grocery store. NPR reports that the highly pathogenic virus was originally discovered in wild birds killed by hunters in South and North Carolina, and eventually infiltrated a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County, Indiana in February. Less than two months later, it has rapidly spread to 24 states across the U.S., ultimately affecting the commercial supplies of poultry products including eggs.

Judging by how things went back in 2015, when the food industry experienced what the USDA (via NPR) described as "the largest poultry health disaster in U.S. history," farmers and consumers can expect to wait at least six months before the current outbreak is over. The 2015 outbreak ended at the six month mark, but it still took some time for prices to calm down — first they peaked, then as farms recovered, they began to go back to normal. If this bird flu is anything like the last, we'll just have to wait it out, and in the meantime settle for paying top dollar for our eggs.