Egg Prices Soar to Record After Bird Flu Causes Supply Shortage

Consumers paid the most ever for eggs in June at grocery stores after a shortage caused by the worst U.S. outbreak of bird flu.

Prices surged 31 percent from the previous month to a record $2.57 for a dozen large eggs, the biggest jump going back to 1980, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday. Consumers may pay up to $8 billion more in 2015 for eggs after the disease, according to a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. report.

Bird flu ravaged more than 48 million fowl in the six months through mid-June, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Iowa, the country’s largest producer, was hardest hit, losing almost 32 million birds, most of them egg-laying chickens. This reduced supplies and sent wholesale prices to a record $2.62 a dozen June 10, according to data from commodity researcher Urner Barry.

“The costs the retailers are paying for wholesale shell eggs are being passed along to the consumer,” Brian Moscogiuri, an egg-market reporter for Urner Barry, said in a telephone interview from Bayville, New Jersey. “Those 35 million layers haven’t come back yet.”

Falling Output

Wholesale prices remain high although no reports of outbreaks have surfaced since June 17. Increased demand in July for yolks to make summer foods such as ice cream and mayonnaise is keeping wholesale prices at high levels, Moscogiuri said. Some large egg processors that went offline at the height of the outbreak are back in business, stretching supplies, he said.

A dozen wholesale eggs are 60 percent higher than last year at $2.40.

Eggs in grocery stores remain pricey in July. A dozen costs 65 percent more than last year, or an average $2.85 for the week through July 16, according to the USDA.

Domestic egg production is expected to fall 2.4 percent in 2015, the first drop since 2008, according to a USDA July 10 report. American consumers will eat 5.6 percent fewer eggs as a result, or about 249 eggs per person this year, the USDA forecasts.

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