California supermarkets’ empty shelves aren’t only due to the deadly avian flu epidemic. Inflation, legacy supply chain issues, holiday demand, and a longer lead time to restart egg-laying flocks have raised prices and decreased availability.
Layer chickens take longer to mature and produce eggs again than younger broilers when they’re processed and sold. “There are still more farms attempting to catch up with the quantities of eggs they want to produce,” said California Poultry Federation president Bill Mattos.
On Jan. 13, USDA’s weekly Egg Market Overview report showed that California’s average wholesale egg price was above $7.
“Some stores refused to sell eggs at the price that they need to,” Mattos remarked. “The supermarket doesn’t want eggs, which is weird. However, they’d prefer not to sell eggs than scare consumers.”
Nate Rose, a spokesman for the California Grocers Association, says grocery shops can no longer pass on the rising expense of placing eggs on the shelves.
“The supermarket sector is spending to get the eggs onto the shelves, and then sell price to consumers is rising quicker than what consumers are paying at the store when you go to pick up your carton of eggs,” he added. “Since prices have risen so much, that’s probably shocking. They’re trying to minimize customer effect since they’re a top three supermarket item. So they’re losing money on eggs in many circumstances.”
“The supply chain has been absolutely devasted since the COVID crisis, so the egg movement and the expense of doing business are above anything they’ve ever been,” Mattos says. Bird flu has impacted eggs badly. In the Midwest last summer. Up to 70 million layers of hens and turkeys died. However, layered chickens take longer to mature and produce eggs again, whereas broilers are younger when processed and sold.
Shoppers may soon have good news. After the holidays, baked goods prices may drop.
Due to holiday baking, egg sales peak in December. People also eat breakfast more at home while preparing for their families. However, Rose said demand typically drops in January and February.
On Jan. 1, 2022, California’s cage-free rules raised costs.
AB1437 mandated cage-free barns for all state-sold eggs. As a result, CA grocers had fewer egg dealers, which raised prices.
“To fulfill regulatory requirements, you’re getting eggs from a restricted variety of possibilities,” Rose added.
The CDFA reports widespread avian flu throughout the state. 13 counties have culled flocks. “It’s had a significant effect on egg farmers, which is why you’re seeing high prices and comparisons to other states where they have a broader pool to purchase from,” Rose said.