It is no longer a humble grocery in the supermarket.
Egg prices have soared in recent months, largely driven by a devastating bird flu outbreak. Some stores have even restricted purchases as reports of egg shortages have surfaced.
At Kroger in Fort Worth on Thursday, a dozen name-brand eggs cost $4.89, while cage-free organic eggs hit $9.99. Customers were limited to three cartons.
“It’s just sticker shock,” Beth Johnson said as she picked up a few groceries for her family. “We ate eggs without thinking. Now it’s practically a luxury item.”
The national average for a dozen large Grade A eggs 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 on record, with nearly 58 million birds in the U.S. affected since last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Of these, 43 million were laying hens.
The outbreak, which also increased the price of Thanksgiving turkeys, reduced the egg-laying bird population by about 5%.
But Gregory Archer, associate professor of poultry science at Texas A&M University, said high feed and fuel costs have also contributed to skyrocketing prices.
Meanwhile, demand for eggs has already increased as inflation-conscious consumers cut back on more expensive foods like meat, Archer added. Egg prices are likely to remain high for the next four to six months as farms rebuild their flocks, he said. Pending further flu outbreaks, prices should drop later this year.
“In general, eggs are a cheap food,” he said. “We think that will continue to be the case in the end.”
For Cedar Ridge Egg Farm in East Texas, rising egg prices have led to a boom in business. The farm has doubled its sales in the past year, now selling roughly 1,800 dozen eggs a day, said farmer and co-owner Sam Miller.
Customers include Central Market, Eataly and the Dallas Farmers Market, with a dozen eggs typically in the $6 to $8 range. But for those willing to drive to a farm in Pickton, about 90 miles east of Dallas, a dozen pasture-raised eggs cost just $4.
“We have people drive an hour to fill our eggs,” Miller said. “They say they can barely find them on the shelves and the prices are sky high.”
Johnson, who shopped at Kroger, said she still buys eggs, even though her family tries to make a dozen last longer. For example, if a recipe calls for two eggs, she only uses one.
“We were more careful and a little more careful,” she said.
On Thursday, egg prices in North Texas ranged between $4 and $10, depending on the brand and how the chickens were raised.
At WinCo in McKinney, a dozen eggs cost $5.82; a dozen at Trader Joe’s in Dallas cost $4.29, and at HEB, a dozen eggs were listed at $5.54.
HEB President Craig Boyan recently told the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas that the San Antonio-based company kept costs down as long as possible, which meant “losing millions of dollars a month selling eggs.”
“But we don’t feel we can pass the skyrocketing price of eggs on to the average Texas family,” Boyan said. HEB eventually raised egg prices, but the company was “trying to be a shock absorber and a buffer” to consumers.
“This is an incredibly important staple for all of us, especially low-income Texans.”