Why Are Eggs So Expensive?

The cost of eggs fluctuates over time but has skyrocketed recently thanks to an unprecedented bird flu outbreak.
Cara Smith
By Cara Smith 
Edited by Laura McMullen

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The price of eggs has skyrocketed in recent months to record highs, more than doubling since the beginning of 2022. So, why do eggs cost so much? The pandemic and inflation play a factor, but they aren’t the real culprit.

Why are eggs so expensive?

Eggs are so expensive now because of a widespread outbreak of H5N1, a highly transmissible and fatal strain of avian influenza, or bird flu. This outbreak started in early 2022 and has grown into the largest bird flu outbreak in U.S. history.

So the outbreak has lowered egg supply, while demand remains consistent. That’ll naturally raise prices.

However, even if the bird flu were to disappear today, egg prices wouldn’t return to normal overnight. Eggs would still be expensive because of labor, transportation and the cost of chicken feed, all of which have risen thanks to inflation.

Why is there an egg shortage?

There’s an egg shortage because the ongoing bird flu outbreak has killed millions of egg-laying chickens. As of April 2023, more than 58 million birds have died in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's the worst toll on the poultry industry since the bird flu outbreak in 2014 and 2015, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture had dubbed “the largest poultry health disaster in U.S. history.” That outbreak killed an estimated 50 million birds in the roughly six months it was most deadly, the USDA said.

Meanwhile, the current outbreak is believed to have started in January 2022 and shows no signs of slowing.

While many birds are dying in the wild, NPR reports, the vast majority of reported bird flu deaths are the result of “depopulation,” a euphemism for slaughtering poultry or other domestic flocks to limit the flu’s spread. The H5N1 virus is highly contagious and lethal: Among chickens, it has a 90% to 100% mortality rate, often within 48 hours of initial infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When will egg prices go down?

Egg prices are poised to go down in 2023. Specifically, the wholesale egg prices are projected to fall 26.8% in 2023, said Seth Meyer, the USDA’s chief economist, in February at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Egg production is also projected to rise 4% this year, per the USDA, as flocks rebound from the bird flu outbreak.

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Egg prices

A handful of figures provide a national glimpse at the prices consumers and businesses are paying for eggs.

The price shoppers pay for a dozen large, Grade A eggs rose 30% from $2.52 in April 2022 to $3.27 in April 2023, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, retrieved from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, or FRED.

Egg prices are starting to drop, though. In April 2023, a dozen eggs was 5.2% cheaper than it was in the preceding month. And egg prices are way down from their peak in January 2023, when they were $4.82 per dozen.

Egg prices hit their peak in January 2023, at $4.82 per dozen.

The FRED has tracked the consumer price of eggs since at least 1980, when large, Grade A eggs cost $0.88 a dozen, not adjusted for inflation. Before the current peak, the cost of eggs was at its highest in September 2015, when they cost $2.97 per dozen.