Egg prices have more than tripled in some states over the past year. Here’s why.

The rise in egg prices in the United States weighs on household budgets. In recent years, Americans have increased the number of eggs they eat while reducing their consumption of beef and venison, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture.

Consumption of eggs has risen in part because more families are consuming them as their main protein substitute, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonja Sharp told CBS News. “Each of us eats about as many eggs as a hen can lay per year,” she said.

While the demand for eggs has increased, production in the United States has fallen due to the avian or “avian” flu epidemic. Nearly 58 million birds have been infected with bird flu as of Jan. 6, the USDA said, making it the deadliest outbreak in US history. Infected birds must be culled, leading to lower egg supplies and soaring prices.

Families and restaurants are now paying high prices for eggs as the outbreak affects 47 states.

In California, for example, data shows the average price of a dozen eggs hit $7.37 last week, up from $2.35 a year ago. The average national egg price per wholesale dozen is now $3.30, the USDA said last week. The average price of a dozen eggs per U.S. city hit a record $3.58 in November, according to the most recent data available from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In some places, it can even be difficult to find eggs on the shelves. But overall, egg supplies are holding up, as the total flock of laying hens is down only about 5% from its normal size of around 320 million hens. Farmers have been working to replace their herds as soon as they can after an outbreak.

Sharp said prices are unlikely to drop until new chickens are born without the infection and reach laying age. More than 300 breeding poultry flocks were affected by the outbreak as of Friday, according to USDA data.

In New York, grocery store owner Jose Filipe said soaring egg prices had caused many customers to change their buying habits.

“I’ve seen customers switch from buying organic eggs to more conventional eggs, and more specifically now, half a dozen. Prices have quadrupled in about six or seven months,” he said. declared. recently told CBS New York’s Jenna DeAngelis.

What is bird flu?

Avian influenza is transmitted by free-flying waterfowl, such as ducks, geese and shorebirds, and infects chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quails, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl. In another major recent outbreak of the disease, it killed more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in 2014 and 2015, while causing economic losses of $3.3 billion, the USDA estimates. The agency is currently researching a potential bird flu vaccine.

Fortunately, the public health risk from bird flu remains low, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nevertheless, cooking all poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F is advised as a general rule of food safety.

The cost of processed eggs – used in liquid or powdered form in manufactured goods including salad dressings, cake mixes and French fries – has also risen, adding to inflationary pressures.

The consumer price index – a closely watched indicator of inflation – increased by 7.1% in December of the previous year. Falling prices for energy, commodities and used cars offset increases in food and housing.

Even with rising costs, however, eggs are still relatively cheap compared to the price of other proteins like chicken or beef, with a pound of chicken breast averaging $4.42 in November and a pound of ground beef at $4.85, according to the government. The data.

But if egg prices stay high, Chicago resident Kelly Fischer said she’ll start thinking more seriously about building a chicken coop in her backyard because everyone in her family eats eggs.

“We (along with neighbours) are planning to build a chicken coop behind our houses, so eventually I’m hoping not to buy them and have my own eggs and I think the cost comes into play a bit,” the school teacher said. 46-year-old public school. when shopping at HarvestTime Foods on the north side of town. “For me, it’s more the environmental impact and trying to buy locally.”

Eggs are just one of the few food staples whose prices have skyrocketed in 2022. Margarine prices have risen 47% between November 2021 and November 2022, according to the most recent data from the Food Index. consumer prices available. Butter prices also rose, from $3.47 per pound in November 2021 to $4.63 per pound in November 2022, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report

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