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Utahns are feeling high egg prices. It’s not just inflation, you can blame avian flu too

Egg prices and shortages, empty shelves at the Smith's, Salt Lake City, Jan. 16, 2023
Martha Harris
Empty spaces on shelves in the egg aisle of the Smith’s at 3215 S Valley Street in Salt Lake City, Jan. 16, 2023. The blue tags told customers “Sorry for the inconvenience. We’ll restock this item as soon as it’s available.”

Egg prices have gone up nationwide, including in Utah, largely because of avian influenza.

Utah State University Extension Poultry Specialist David Frame said more than 43 million egg-laying hens died nationwide last year because of the avian flu outbreak.

Frame said part of the reason so many chickens died is that not only is this strain of avian flu highly lethal but if one chicken in an egg-laying facility gets the virus, the rest of the flock is culled to prevent the disease from spreading.

The average cost of food nationally increased by 10.4% between December 2021 and December 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in that same period, the average cost of eggs shot up 59.9% nationally. In December 2021, the average price for a dozen grade A large eggs was about $1.79 and by the same month in 2022, the average cost was $4.25.

There are other factors driving the price of eggs up, according to Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesperson Bailee Woolstenhulme, like the cost of chicken feed going up due to inflation.

“When we have rising costs of all goods, it affects the price of our food as well,” Woolstenhulme said. “But avian flu is the major cause.”

Woolstenhulme said Utah imports eggs from other states that produce more and so prices here largely follow what happens nationwide.

Frame said economists have predicted that egg prices will go down by the end of June, but we’re still not out of the woods yet.

“As far as the infection of this highly pathogenic avian influenza, we’ll just have to wait to see what this spring migration brings,” Frame said. “We could be in for another wave, we just don’t know.”

Martha is KUER’s education reporter.
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