Egg prices have rocketed in the US over the past 12 months as a combination of bird flu, soaring feed costs and labour shortages have hit supplies.

A dozen eggs now costs $4.25 (€3.90), up from $1.72 (€1.58) in January last year. The 250% increase is adding to the pressure on household budgets, as well as hitting the operating margins of restaurants, bakeries and other food producers.

The primary cause of the latest bout of price increases is supply.

The latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that US egg supplies have fallen by around 3% since 2020.

Drop in output

This has resulted in 3.25 billion fewer eggs being sold last year compared with the start of the decade.

The drop in output is due mainly to the impact of bird flu. The disease has rampaged through the US poultry sector, with 58 million birds slaughtered as the authorities struggle to contain the virus.

Egg producers have been particularly hard hit by the disease, with 43 million of the birds culled in 2022 coming from egg-laying flocks.

While the overall hen flock in the US is still within 5% of its pre-virus level of 320 million birds, egg supplies to some regions have been severely impacted.

Disease outbreak

This latest outbreak of bird flu is the most serious of recent years, with experts pointing out that it lingered in many areas through the summer months, before bursting into life again in the autumn.

The disease problems faced by egg producers have been compounded by higher feed and fuel costs and a shortage of labour on poultry farms. Illegal imports from Mexico are also on the rise.

Meanwhile, Farm Action, a non-profit organisation that campaigns against corporate influence in US agriculture, has blamed price gouging on the part of egg-packers and distributers for contributing to the recent hike in prices.