Texans who recently went to the grocery store may have noticed that the cost of eggs has doubled in the last couple of weeks.
But eggs are not the first commodity to experience shortages or price spikes since the COVID-19 pandemic began almost three years ago.
Justin Benavidez, livestock economist at Texas A&M AgriLife, said inflation is the main driver of price increases.
“There are many things that have affected our entire supply chain. And food is not the only thing that has experienced this inflation,” he said. “Fuel is more expensive. Animal feed is more expensive and fertilizer is more expensive. So it certainly affects the cost of doing business for farmers and ranchers.”
Another factor, he said, is that the agricultural infrastructure in the United States is largely outdated.
“Much of our food industry infrastructure outside the farm gate was built in the 70s and 80s,” he said. “We have had some of those kickbacks from the pandemic where people demanded a lot of food and restructured the food supply system to eat at home. Part of the food infrastructure worked on outdated equipment. And so there were some hiccups in terms of production.”
Other food shortages and price spikes are also exacerbated by factors unique to the commodity, Benavidez said.
“When we think about eggs, for example, highly pathogenic avian influenza killed 10% or 11% of our layer flock in the United States last year. This is a very unique aspect only for the poultry market,” he said. “So there are some through lines, but there are also certain market factors that also affect every type of product you see in a grocery store.”
So can grocery shoppers expect food market disruptions to continue?
Benavidez said that as long as the inflationary pressure on the economy continues, he expects it to affect the food supply chain. However, the prices of some foodstuffs do not rise all the time. The price of beef, for example, was lower in December than a year earlier.
“So some food is going down, and those specific market factors are causing other food prices to go down,” he said. “But inflationary pressures, which are driving higher industry costs across the board — not just at the farm and ranch level, but also at the grocery level in terms of higher labor costs — these things could stick around for a while longer. because inflation is still part of our economy.”
Benavidez advised shoppers to take advantage of great deals on non-perishables and stock up on food to put in the freezer to reduce the impact of inflation on their budgets.
And while he’s not sure what, if anything, will be done about rising food prices during the Texas legislative session, Benavidez said he expects it to be a conversation.
“I think that every legislature, as well as the federal government, will have questions about what led to the rise in the cost of food and the increase in the cost of fiber, ”he said. “I certainly expect there to be questions about what has caused some of the food cost to go up and what the supply chain may need some sort of correction or adjustment to prevent similar fluctuations in the future.”