Just when we thought we’d be paying high prices for eggs forever, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon: NPR reports that wholesale egg prices are finally starting to come back down. Citing data from the USDA, NPR says that in the Midwest, the wholesale price for a dozen eggs dropped $0.58 to a total of $3.29 per dozen at the end of January.
Note that these are wholesale prices, which means you might not have seen much improvement in your grocery bill just yet. But if this trend continues, you should see some relief at the supermarket soon. Bakers and breakfast lovers, rejoice.
The initial cause of the jump in egg prices was due to a 2022 avian flu outbreak, which ripped through domestic egg-laying bird populations. In many cases, entire flocks were culled, causing supplies to drop drastically—which, in turn, caused the price of the remaining eggs to spike. Unfortunately, the outbreak is still in progress, with no clear end in sight.
This particular strain of the avian flu has been particularly unforgiving. Typically wild birds afflicted with the virus don’t usually see much sickness, but poultry scientist Phillip Clauer at Penn State College of Agricultural Science told NPR that the current outbreak is different.
“We’re seeing symptoms and we’re seeing mortality in some of the wild birds,” Clauer said. “This time around, it’s more deadly.”
Despite the nastiness of the outbreak, no one should be worried that it will cause widespread illness among humans. The avian flu doesn’t often jump to people, and though one person in Colorado was reported infected last spring, they were largely asymptomatic and recovered with the aid of antiviral medication.
So why has it taken so long for things to level off? Well, when a flock gets destroyed, farmers need to start practically from scratch, starting from chicks, which can take 16 to 18 weeks, according to Dr. Yuko Sato, a veterinarian at Iowa State University. Essentially the market is recovering from an unwelcome jolt in the system, and it can’t do so any faster than its current pace.
It’s also likely that we’ll never really see bargain-bin prices for eggs anymore, even after poultry populations recover. Inflation is still an ongoing issue, so baseline prices are still likely to be higher than we all remember from the good ol’ days (remember a dollar a dozen, anyone?). Still, we’ll take relief where we can get it, so keep an eye out at the grocery store. As for me, I think I’ll celebrate with an egg salad sandwich.