Rising egg prices in the United States have put pressure on consumers and businesses

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Chickens may not be able to fly very far, but the price of eggs is going up.

The continuing outbreak of avian influenza, along with rising feed, fuel and labor costs, has more than doubled the price of eggs in the United States over the past year and caused plenty of sticker shocks in grocery aisles.

The national average price for a dozen eggs was $3.59 in November, up from $1.72 a year earlier, according to the latest government data. This puts pressure on consumer budgets and the bottom line of restaurants, bakeries, and other food producers who rely heavily on eggs.

Grocery prices which rose by 12% in November leads to higher inflation, Although the overall pace of price increases slowed slightly during the fall With lower gas prices.

But the price of eggs has risen significantly more than other foods – even more so than chicken or turkey – because egg farmers have been hit hard by bird flu. More than 43 million of the 58 million birds were slaughtered Over the past year to control the virus, laying hens have been put in, including some farms with more than 1 million birds each in major egg-producing states such as Iowa..

Everyone who approaches a case of eggs at Hy-Vee’s Grocery Store in Omaha, shopper Nancy Stumm said, “has a sad face.”

But even with the higher cost, eggs remain relatively cheap compared to the price of other proteins such as chicken or beef, with a pound of chicken breast selling for an average of $4.42 in November, and a pound of ground beef selling for $4.85, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It’s still an inexpensive meal,” said Stumm. But the 70-year-old said that at these prices, she’ll keep a close eye on her eggs in the fridge and try not to let them spoil before they get used to.

If prices continue to be so high, Kelly Fisher said, she will start to think more seriously about building a chicken coop in her backyard in Chicago because everyone in her family eats eggs.

“We (along with the neighbors) are thinking of building a chicken coop behind our houses, so I hope in the end I don’t buy it and get my own eggs and I think the cost comes to a point,” said the 46-year-old public school teacher. While shopping at HarvesTime Foods on the north side of town. “For me, it’s more about environmental impact and trying to buy locally.”

In some places, it can be difficult to find eggs on the shelves. But the egg supply is generally holding up because the overall flock is down just 5% from its normal size of about 320 million chickens. Farmers are working to replace their flocks as quickly as possible after an outbreak.

Jacob Werner, 18, said he tries to find the cheapest eggs because he eats five or six a day while trying to gain weight and build muscle.

“For a while, I stopped eating eggs because they got more expensive. Since they are my favorite food, eventually I went back to them,” said Werner, who lives in Chicago. “So I guess I stopped eating eggs a few months ago, and waited for the price to come down. . you did not. So now I’m buying again.”

Jason Lusk, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, said he believes the bird flu outbreak It is the biggest driver of rising prices. Unlike in years past, the virus lasted all summer and resurfaced last fall Infection of egg and poultry farms.

“Avian influenza is not the only factor, but in my view it is the main driver of what we’re seeing right now,” Lusk said.

But the president and CEO of the U.S. trade group, the Egg Board, Emily Metz, said she believes all the cost increases farmers faced in the past year were a bigger factor in price hikes than bird flu.

“When you look at fuel costs going up, feed costs going up up to 60%, labor costs, packaging costs — all of that… those are much bigger factors than avian flu for me,” Metz said.

There may be some relief in egg prices in the next couple of months, said Jada Thompson, an agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas because egg farmers have replaced flocks they lost to bird flu last year and demand will decrease a bit now that people are. They finished baking on their holiday.

But she said bird flu was still a wild card that could continue to drive up prices if there were larger outbreaks on egg farms.

Farmers are doing everything they can To reduce the spread of the disease, but the disease is easily spread by migrating wild birds and the virus can be transmitted from clothing or vehicles.

“But there are some things that are out of our control,” Thompson said. “You can’t control nature sometimes.”

Food producers and restaurants are hurting because it’s hard to find a good substitute for eggs in their recipes.

A drop in the price of eggs would be most welcome at Patti Stubo’s two restaurants and bakeries in Conway and Russellville, Arkansas, because all of their ingredients and supplies are much more affordable these days. For some of her baked goods, Stobaugh has switched to the not-so-expensive frozen egg product, but she still buys eggs for all of her breakfasts.

A case of 15 dozen eggs has gone from $36 to $86 over the past year, but flour, butter, chicken, and everything else you buy is also more expensive. Stobo said she has an “extremely vigil about every little bit.”

They’ve already raised their rates by 8% in the last year, and may have to raise them again soon. It’s a delicate balance between trying not to make eating out too expensive and hurting sales, but she doesn’t have much choice while trying to provide for her 175 employees.

“We have a lot of employees working for us and we’re responsible for preparing the payroll every week and supporting their families. We take that very seriously. It was definitely tough,” Stubo said.

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