The humble supermarket staple is no longer.
Egg prices have skyrocketed in recent months, largely due to a devastating outbreak of bird flu. Some stores have even put restrictions on shopping as there are reports of egg shortages.
On Thursday at Kroger in Fort Worth, a dozen store-bought eggs were $4.89 and cage-free organic eggs were $9.99. Buyers were limited to three boxes.
“It’s just a shock,” Beth Johnson said as she shopped for groceries for her family. “We used to eat eggs without even thinking. Now it’s practically a luxury item.”
The national average for a dozen large Grade A eggs has more than doubled from $1.78 in December 2021 to $4.25 last month, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Farmers are battling the deadliest bird flu outbreak ever recorded, with almost 58 million birds affected in the US since last year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, 43 million were laying hens.
The outbreak, which also increased the cost of Thanksgiving turkeys, reduced the egg-laying bird population by about 5%.
But Gregory Archer, an associate professor of poultry science at Texas A&M University, said rising feed and fuel prices have also contributed to the price surge.
Meanwhile, demand for eggs has already picked up as inflation-worried consumers cut back on more expensive items like meat, Archer added. Egg prices are likely to remain high for the next four to six months, he said, as farms replenish their herds. In anticipation of an end to flu outbreaks, prices should fall later this year.
“In general, eggs are inexpensive food,” he said. “We think that will eventually be the case.”
For the Cedar Ridge Egg Farm in East Texas, rising egg prices have led to a boom in business. According to farmer and co-owner Sam Miller, the farm doubled its sales last year and now sells about 1,800 eggs a day.
Customers include Central Market, Eataly, and the Dallas Farmers’ Market, where a dozen eggs typically cost between $6 and $8. But for those who want to drive to a farm in Picton, about 90 miles east of Dallas, a dozen pasture-raised eggs cost just $4.
“We have people who drive for an hour to load our eggs,” Miller said. “They say they have a hard time finding them on the shelves, and the prices are off the charts.”
Johnson, who shopped at Kroger, said she still buys eggs even though her family is trying to extend the shelf life of a dozen. For example, if a recipe calls for two eggs, she only uses one.
“We are becoming more mindful and a little more careful,” she said.
On Thursday, North Texas egg prices ranged from $4 to $10, depending on the brand and how the chickens are raised.
At WinCo at McKinney, a dozen eggs cost $5.82; a dozen eggs at Trader Joe’s in Dallas cost $4.29, while at HEB a dozen eggs cost $5.54.
HEB President Craig Boyan recently told the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank that the San Antonio-based company held back spending as long as possible, which meant “losing millions of dollars a month in egg sales.”
“But we don’t feel like we can pass on skyrocketing egg prices to the average Texan family,” Boyan said. HEB ended up raising egg prices, but the company “tried to be a shock absorber and buffer” for consumers.
“It’s an incredibly important food item for all of us, especially low-income Texans.”