The deadly avian flu outbreak has been a major reason for empty supermarket shelves, but it’s not the only one. Inflation, legacy supply chain issues and holiday demand – plus the longer lead time it takes to restart egg-laying flocks – have also been driving up prices and reducing availability. That’s especially true in California, where wholesale eggs recently topped $7. KGO spoke to experts who shared some surprising details about the current egg shortage and why prices are so high.
Karyn Rispoli, editor of Urner Barry’s Egg Price Current, says the avian flu killed millions of egg-laying hens in the Midwest last summer and it took a while for out-of-state producers to bring their flocks back online. But she doesn’t believe that alone accounts for the dramatic price increases we’re seeing in California.
She points out that December is typically one of the highest months for egg sales, due to holiday baking and more family breakfasts. Plus there are seasonal cycles that affect how many chickens produce at any given time.
Rispoli adds that California’s cage free laws, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2022, have also pushed egg prices higher here. That’s because AB1437 requires that all eggs sold in the Golden State come from hens living in cage-free barns. This has reduced the pool of egg sellers CA grocers can buy from, which drives prices up.
The higher prices are particularly hard for lower-income families, who depend on eggs as a low-cost protein source. The California Poultry Federation reports that some WIC beneficiaries are being restricted to a single dozen large white, cage-free eggs per month because of the shortage and soaring prices.