Shoppers across the nation have been scrambling for months to keep up with soaring egg prices.
Prices continue to skyrocket – up 60% in December from a year earlier. Last year, the average price for a dozen large Grade A eggs in the US was $1.93 in January. By December, when egg demand peaked, the price surged to $4.25.
The high prices prompted a “He went to Kroger” meme, with an egg in place of an engagement ring in the “He went to Jared” jewelry advertisement.
Here’s when we can expect egg prices to drop and what we can do in the meantime.
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How much do eggs cost?
The price of eggs jumped 11% in December from the month before, according to Consumer Price Index data. The average price for a dozen large Grade A eggs in December hit $4.25, up from $1.79 the year before, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Why are eggs so expensive?
Three reasons: an increase in holiday demand, higher production costs for farmers, and an outbreak of bird flu, a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to poultry such as chickens and turkeys.
As of December, more than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost since the outbreak began in February 2022, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The virus has led to the deaths of more than 57 million birds in hundreds of commercial and backyard flocks across 47 states since February, surpassing the 50 million birds lost in the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, according to the USDA.
“We have seen infections get into a flock, where they look perfectly fine one day, and then the next day they’re all dead,” said Gregory Martin, a poultry educator at Penn State Extension. “That’s how fast this thing moves. And so the losses are very, very severe.”
Martin said bird flu is not a foodborne illness, so poultry and eggs found in grocery stores are safe to eat.
Avian influenza: Iowa egg facility reports bird flu outbreak that will require killing 1.1 million hens
Why are eggs in short supply?
States like Colorado and California have reported empty egg shelves at grocery stores. Meanwhile, consumers in states like Massachusetts and Arizona have resorted to raising their own chickens.
“We are seeing some very, very temporary, isolated and hyperlocal shortages,” said Emily Metz, CEO of the trade group American Egg Board. “We have not seen widespread shortages. We have not seen panic buying or anything like that.”
Will egg prices go down?
When egg prices will drop is hard to predict and depends on both supply and demand, said Maro Ibarburu, associate scientist at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University.
“In the absence of new cases (of avian influenza), the production of eggs will gradually increase over the next several months, and that should help the market,” Ibarburu said. “But the demand is also an important factor.”
For now, you can save money by clipping coupons and comparing deals online to shop for the lowest price, according to personal finance service The Ascent.
Can I freeze eggs in the shell?
Eggs should not be frozen in their shells, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
To freeze eggs, beat yolks and whites together. You can also freeze egg whites and yolks separately, though freeze whites better than yolks, the USDA says.
“To freeze yolks, mix four yolks with a pinch of salt and one and a half teaspoons of sugar or corn syrup,” the USDA says.
Make sure to use your frozen eggs within a year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why are eggs so expensive? The cost of a carton has skyrocketed