Egg prices jump as avian flu spreads, pushing up overall food prices, CPI reveals

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Labor Department
Source: Labor Department

Related tags Eggs Inflation Consumer price index

The Consumer Price Index released today shows the price of eggs is climbing again as producers scramble to contain a highly contagious outbreak of avian flu that the US Department of Agriculture estimates has infected more than 50 flocks in the last 30 days.

Between November and December the price of eggs increased 8.9% on top of a much lower, but still compounding, 2.2% increase from October to November and 0.1% from September to October, according to seasonally adjusted data​ from the Labor Department released today.

The increase is nothing compared to the spike that pushed egg prices up double digits last winter​ when year-over-year egg prices were up 70.1% in January. Indeed, year-over-year prices were down 23.8% in December 2023, according to the CPI. But still the trend is alarming as the average price per dozen eggs in December came in at $2.51 compared to $2.14 the prior month and $2.04 in August, which was the lowest price of 2023.

Prices could continue to rise if a spike in avian flu that began in the fall revealed by USDA continues to climb unchecked.

According to USDA, 11.47m birds were confirmed infected with HPAI in December, which was up from 8.08m in November and 1.37m in October. As of Jan. 11, USDA reported an additional 1.66m birds tested positive this month. Since February 2022, 81.37m birds have been affected – prompting massive depopulation efforts by producers to contain the spread of HPAI but which also is constraining supply.

Among the producers hit by the flu is Cal-Maine Foods, which killed approximately 1.5m laying hens and 240,000 pullets​, or approximately 3.3% of its total flock, after an outbreak at its facilities in Kansas.

Food prices continue to rise faster than Federal Reserve prefers

The spike in egg prices led an overall 0.5% increase in the meat, poultry, fish and egg grocery food group index, which was one of four of the six major grocery store food groups to increase in December, according to the CPI.

The index for other food at home also rose 0.1% over the last month, as did the index for nonalcoholic beverages, which rose 0.2%, and the dairy and related products index, which increased 0.1% month over month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These increases caused the overall price of food consumed at home to climb 0.2% in December – the same month-over-month increase as in November – offsetting a 0.3% decline in the cereal and bakery prices and a 0.1% decrease in the price of fruit and vegetables, according to the CPI.

Unadjusted food prices year-over-year increased 2.7% and 1.3% for food consumed at home, according to the CPI.

According to the CPI, increases in food prices helped drive up overall prices 0.3% in December from the previous month and 3.4% for the year – which is higher than the Federal Reserve’s target of 2% inflation.

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