US egg producers’ efforts to rebuild egg-laying chicken flocks point to a continued egg price decline throughout this year, barring a resurgence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this fall. In 2022, HPAI transmissions surged during the US’ spring and fall wild bird migrations, and about 58 million animals from commercial poultry flocks were lost to HPAI, squeezing egg production and putting sharp upward pressure on prices.
Currently, wholesale egg prices are $3.20 per dozen, more than double their five-year average. But the layer flock rebound currently underway could take wholesale egg prices to about $1.75 per dozen and bring retail egg prices below $2 per dozen by the summer, according to a Gro analysis of layer flock sizes and egg prices.
As avian flu ravaged layer flocks last year, year-over-year US egg production dropped by 2 billion eggs and wholesale egg prices skyrocketed, peaking at $4.49 per dozen in December 2022, as shown in this display.
December’s price spike was caused by a significant uptick in HPAI transmission and layer culls — 8% of the year’s losses came in the month. Since then, HPAI transmission has dropped off considerably. In the first quarter of last year, 22.4 million commercial poultry losses were attributed to HPAI, but during the same period this year, less than 1 million were culled.
This drop-off in HPAI-linked culls, just as this year’s first wild bird migration is drawing to a close, suggests that US egg producers’ layer flocks should stay healthy and could get back to 385 million before year end. In 2021, US egg producers’ layer flocks averaged 391.5 million.
Currently, the US’ layer headcount is at almost 378.9 million hens. In the months following last year’s wild bird spring migration, the hen headcount hit a recent low of 368.5 million.