Empty egg sections in grocery stores and signs limiting customers on how many eggs they can purchase have become commonplace in recent months. Shoppers who can find eggs are shelling out for record-high costs.
Inflation and consumer demand are not the only elements driving the egg shortage. Costs have also risen as a result of the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history. In Colorado, more than 6 million birds were killed, including eight commercial flocks, according to the USDA. Colorado residents have been hit especially hard as a new measure that went into effect January 1st only added pressure to the already-strained supply chain. The new state law requires locally-raised chickens to be cage-free if the eggs from those chickens are to be sold in grocery stores. Denver restaurants have not been immune to the issue, and the price of many egg-centered dishes has risen at several establishments throughout the city. Some restauranteurs have chosen to eliminate the ingredient where they can, rather than raise prices.
Emily Metz, President and CEO of the American Egg Board, was cautiously optimistic. “The good news is that egg farms are recovering quickly. In fact, most of the egg farms that were affected by HPAI this year have recovered and are back to producing eggs. Nationwide, according to USDA, we have approximately 6% fewer hens laying eggs right now than we might normally, so egg farms are recovering quickly, but we’re not all the way back yet,” she said. Clearly, she’s right. Despite the cooling of demand for holiday baking essentials and flocks beginning to rebuild, the cost of a dozen large white eggs in mid-January had more than doubled from what it was just a year ago, according to a USDA National Egg Index Price Report, if you could even find them in stock.