Wholesale egg prices have plunged, but when will consumers see lower retail prices?

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Experts say lower prices should show up soon

If you’ve adjusted your breakfast menu in the last year because of the high cost of eggs, you should soon be able to get back to your regular morning routine. The wholesale price of eggs has plunged in recent weeks.

This week the wholesale price of a dozen eggs dropped to $2.61. That’s more than 50% lower than mid-December’s average price of $5.43. According to the market research firm Urner Barry, egg prices have plunged by 47% so far this year.

Consumers probably haven’t noticed, however. That’s because there is a lag in the time that a wholesale price is reflected in prices at the supermarket. 

In fact, retail egg prices were still extremely high throughout December. According to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), the price consumers paid for eggs was up over 11% from November. During all of 2022, retail prices soared by 60%.

Last spring a particularly strong form of avian flu decimated domestic chicken flocks. The outbreak flared up again last fall, killing millions of chickens and driving prices even higher.

Egg production is up, but so are producers’ costs

Industry analysts say chicken flocks are rebounding and that’s bringing down prices. However, they point out that producers face higher costs in other areas.

“Everything we buy, from cartons and boxes and freight and fuel, pretty much every input we purchase went up in cost in 2022," John Brunnquell, CEO of Egg Innovations, told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Brunnquell said the avian flu caused the deaths of around 38 million laying hens across the U.S. last year, though government health officials put the number closer to 58 million. Much of 2022’s price surge was simply a supply and demand issue.

Now that wholesale egg prices are on a downward slope, just when will shoppers see lower prices for a carton of eggs at the grocery store? Maybe within weeks, experts say.

How low will egg prices get?

How low will prices fall? That’s less certain. In a way of comparison, a dozen large Grade A eggs cost consumers $4.25 on average in December, more than double the $1.79 retail price a year earlier, according to government data.

While Brunnquell and other egg producers are facing higher costs they may find they must aggressively lower prices to sell eggs to a public that has lately changed its menu to avoid high prices.

“Consumer demand for shell eggs continues to track lower and is below average and below the levels recorded a year ago,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted last week. “Resistance to record high prices in grocery outlets across the country continues to slow shell egg movement.”

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