US egg prices are at their highest in more than 30 years

Looks the same, costs more.
Looks the same, costs more.
Image: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko
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The US egg crisis of 2015 keeps setting records.

The price of a dozen large eggs rose another 14.5% last month, to $2.94. Adjusting for inflation, egg prices haven’t been this high in the US since February 1984, meaning at least 42% of the country has never seen egg prices this high.

Egg prices are rising as the US Department of Agriculture tries to contain a bird flu outbreak by killing infected flocks. So far, 40.3 million chickens—the vast majority of which are birds used for egg production—and 7.7 million other types of birds have been destroyed in the effort.

The worst of the infection appears to be over. There hasn’t been a newly reported case of bird flu since June 17 according to the USDA data.

Supply has become constrained enough that at least one grocery store began rationing eggs. The high prices now mean that chicken eggs became more expensive than chicken meat as a source of protein.

US businesses have been forced to turn overseas for chicken eggs. The US imported 50 million eggs in July, an unprecedented figure, according to the Census Bureau.

Despite the massive jump, imported eggs are still dwarfed by domestic production volume. The US egg laying flock produced 8.5 billion eggs in July 2014 and contained 361 million birds in 2014, according to the USDA’s most recent estimate. It produced 99.8 billion eggs, an average of 277 per bird. At this rate, the birds now lost to avian flu would be expected to produce as many as 929 million eggs per month.