Egg prices fell by almost 11% in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday, following a 7% decline in February and delivering relief from record-high prices over the winter.
The decrease is largely due to a recovery in egg production and weaker consumer demand, said Brian Moscogiuri, global trade strategist at Eggs Unlimited, an egg supplier.
Egg prices rose more than those of almost any other consumer good or service last year, in percentage terms. In a sign of the times, comedian Trevor Noah asked popstar Taylor Swift at the Grammy Awards in February if her fans could help reduce the high price of eggs.
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Consumers paid $4.21 for a dozen Grade A, large eggs in February, on average, according to most recent federal data. That’s more than double the price in February 2022, when a dozen eggs cost $2, but is down 61 cents from $4.82 in January 2023, which was a record high.
Why egg prices increased through 2022
The U.S. suffered its deadliest outbreak of bird flu in history in 2022. The disease — which is highly contagious and lethal among birds — killed tens of millions of egg-laying hens.
There hasn’t been a confirmed case at commercial egg farms since December, and supply has rebounded, Moscogiuri said.
Consumer demand has also been relatively weak, he added. Egg prices typically rise leading up to Easter, generally the second-strongest demand season behind the winter holidays; this year, the religious holiday fell on April 9.
But Easter 2023 was somewhat of a “dud,” Moscogiuri said. To reduce costs, decorating Easter potatoes caught on as an alternative to dying Easter eggs. Dollar Tree, a low-cost retail chain, pulled eggs from its store shelves in March until later this year due to high prices.
Wholesale egg prices have ‘crashed’
Consumers may see prices fall further at grocery stores. Wholesale egg prices have “crashed” in recent weeks, Moscogiuri said.
“We’re seeing some of the cheapest egg prices in the last 52 weeks now,” he said.
Retail price trends generally track the wholesale market but lag by four to eight weeks, said Angel Rubio, senior analyst at Urner Barry, a market research firm that specializes in the wholesale food industry.
The food inflation fever has been broken.Mark Zandichief economist of Moody’s Analytics
Egg prices declined amid a broad pullback in grocery prices last month. The food at home price index declined by 0.3% in March, the first decrease since September 2020, according to the BLS.
Lower diesel prices — an important component in transporting food to stores — and easing snags in food supply chains have helped contribute to lower overall grocery prices, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.
“It signals the food inflation fever has been broken,” Zandi said of the CPI data issued Wednesday.
Egg prices had also been nudged upward by rising costs for key animal-feed inputs like corn and soybeans, economists said. Those prices have declined from near-record highs hit in 2022.
Egg prices could yet be pressured by future outbreaks of bird flu. The next few months represent peak migratory season for wild birds; despite ample investment by farmers in preventative disease measures over the past year, there are still concerns, Moscogiuri said.