An egg shortage is driving up the price of eggs for consumers across the US and other countries. The main cause appears to be a strain of bird flu which is threatening commercial flocks of chickens. Economists have also pointed to rising production costs and supply chain issues as a driving force behind rising egg prices.
The surge in egg prices will come as unwelcome news to many consumers who are already struggling with the cost of living crisis. In many parts of the world, people are facing increasingly high grocery prices, taxes, and utility bills.
The leading cause of the egg shortage appears to be bird flu, more formally referred to as pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). As of January 23, 2023, the latest figures released by the US Department of Agriculture indicate that 58.16 million chickens have been affected by the bird flu across 47 US states.
Bird flu is highly contagious and carries a high mortality rate for affected birds. Between 90 and 100 percent of chickens are killed within 48 hours when exposed to the virus. To prevent the spread of the virus, health officials have had to slaughter millions of chickens as a preemptive measure.
In late November last year, the BBC described the current wave of bird flu as “the worst one ever in Europe, and in the US.”
“A hundred and sixty million domestic birds worldwide have been killed by this virus, or have had to be culled by farmers to contain it,” Professor Munir Iqbal of the UK’s Pirbright Institute told the BBC.
The virus, which does not just affect chickens, has also had an effect on the supply of turkeys. Last year, consumers were met with a shortage of turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas caused by the bird flu and a combination of other factors.
Other causes for the egg shortage
Bird flu is not the only factor contributing to the egg shortage or the rising prices. Costs associated with production have been rising by as much as 50 percent in recent years.
Common feed-items like soya, corn, and wheat have become more costly, making it more difficult to feed chickens at sustainable prices. The war in Ukraine is thought to be driving up the price of wheat in particular, since both Russia and Ukraine are leading producers of the food staple.
Some economists have labeled the current price hike “eggflation”. However, the light-hearted label does point to a real problem for consumers. According to the Bureau of Labor, eggs are now 40 to 60 percent more expensive now than they were a year ago in the US.
According to Forbes, the price of a dozen eggs has soared by 137 percent versus this time last year. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the cost has in fact tripled.
For many consumers across the US and elsewhere in the Western world, “eggflation” will be greeted as more unwelcome news. The cost of utilities, taxes, and consumer goods have continued to rise amid an uncertain economic climate.