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Why Are Egg Prices Going Up Right Now?

Eggs in carton

With many consumers busy with Easter preparations, now there’s news that egg prices have spiked again. The USDA released their egg market news report on March 18, 2024, and it shows elevated prices of shelled eggs in 2024 so far, compared to early 2023.

As you may recall, there was an egg shortage in 2023, thanks in large part to a large avian flu outbreak. While this recent news won’t result in egg scarcity, it’s a reminder that the egg industry is fragile (no pun intended). This news is also a reminder that in seasons where eggs are in high demand, like around Easter or Thanksgiving, eggs are typically more expensive.

Despite the egg price news being so close to spring holidays, the reasons for increases extend far beyond any season. We chatted with egg experts to sort out why the price of eggs is so high, why the price of eggs fluctuates and what you can do as a shopper to save money on eggs.

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Why Are Egg Prices Going Up Right Now?

According to Emily Metz, president and CEO of the American Egg Board, “eggs are a spring essential—especially for Easter and Passover—and Easter is one of the strongest sales seasons of the year for eggs, so demand is really high. In fact, Americans consume nearly 3 billion eggs every Easter season.”

The USDA’s 2024 Food Price Outlook revealed an 8.9% rise in retail egg prices in December 2023 and a 1.8% increase in January 2024. Although prices are going up, it's important to keep things in perspective. These increases were 28.6% lower than egg prices in January 2023.

Egg prices also tend to fluctuate by location. For instance, the USDA reports that as of March 18, 2024, New York’s egg prices are 6 cents higher for all large and extra-large classes. Meanwhile, California’s prices have remained steady for medium, large, extra-large and jumbo eggs.

So, I’d hate to blame the Easter bunny, but with this egg-heavy holiday upon us, demand is trumping supply. The good news is that prices will normalize. Metz notes that “wholesale prices for eggs have been dropping since February and are already down 33%. Prices at retail typically lag wholesale prices by a few weeks, so hopefully shoppers will see some relief soon.”

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What Affects Egg Prices?

Metz explains that while market conditions drive egg prices, “it’s important to know that egg farmers do not set the price for their eggs; eggs are sold as commodities and wholesale egg prices are set by the market based on supply and demand. Egg farmers are price takers, not price makers. While egg farmers don’t set the prices for their eggs, they take great care to produce the 92 billion eggs Americans eat every year as efficiently and economically as they can.”

While supply and demand impact egg prices the most, there's also a hefty cost to produce them.

Lisa Steele, a fifth-generation chicken keeper, blogger, cookbook author and television host notes that states such as Michigan, California and Washington “have instituted (or will be putting in place) cage-free stipulations, which is requiring the egg farms to give each bird more room, which also of course drives up their costs.” There’s also an increase in gas, labor, packaging and chicken feed.

Another factor could be consumers’ move to vegetarian diets. Steele says that, “the increased interest in vegetarian diets, or those trying to limit the red meat, has also put a higher demand on the egg market, coupled with rising prices for beef and chicken, more people are turning to eggs as a more affordable protein source.”

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When Will Egg Prices Go Back Down?

Egg prices have been on a rollercoaster since December 2022 when the industry experienced the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak. In November 2023, HPAI struck again, with nearly 20 million birds affected. Then, we saw egg prices skyrocket to 60% in December 2023.

While there have been few avian flu cases from January to March 2024, it's possible the industry is still recovering from the chickens that were lost in late 2023, plus egg demand is traditionally higher during seasons where they’re used the most. "Since a hen doesn't start laying until she's about 5 months old, it will take those farms a long time to replace those laying birds," says Steele.

Overall, the USDA shows egg prices in January 2024 are actually down 52.2% compared to January 2023. The good news is that prices are projected to decrease 2.8% in 2024. We’re crossing our fingers.

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Tips to Save Money on Eggs

To combat egg price increases now and in the future, you can save money on eggs in a number of ways:

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