(NEXSTAR) — After months of inflation, eggs suddenly became a bit cheaper — but don’t expect them to stay that way.
The cost of eggs in the U.S. has been on a precipitous rise since last fall, but inflation data show that the average price tumbled by 7% in February.
Suddenly, the average price of a dozen large, white, Grade A eggs fell from $4.82 in January to $4.21 in February.
“Part of that is because we’re past the peak demand period,” said Rodney Holcomb, an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University.
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Holcomb was referring to the traditional high season toward the end of the year when holiday-related cooking causes a spike in demand. For months, supply has been even more strained by avian flu, which led to the slaughter of more than 58 million birds in an effort to contain the virus, according to the Associated Press.
“You’ve got a short supply — in large part due to avian flu and the impact it had on our flocks. Then we saw prices just skyrocket more-so than it had in several years,” Holcomb said.
February’s dip may be partly attributable to farmers finally building back their supply of egg laying hens, which he says takes time, unlike with broiler chickens meant for eating, which are ready in about two months.
“It’s going to be six months before she’s a really, extremely productive day in, day out, egg-producing hen,” Holcomb said. “We lost so many back in the fall that it’s taken us a while, into January and February, just to start building our supply of chickens back out.”
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“I think we’re gonna see prices tick back up,” Holcomb said. “There’s been a lot of concern about what may happen with egg prices. If you look at USDA Economic Research Service data, out of all their predictions — changes in food prices and different categories for 2023 — egg is by far the highest and the most variable in terms of change.”
According to the United States Dept. of Agriculture, egg prices are predicted to increase 37.8% in 2023, but the range of predictions spans from 18.3 to 62.3%.
On Tuesday, Dollar Tree reportedly announced that it would stop selling eggs altogether, citing the inflated prices. In March, 2022, the average cost of a dozen eggs was $2.05. A year earlier, that number was $1.63.
Holcomb said this year some people may see the shelf price and end up going with just a dozen eggs, instead of two or three dozen like in years past.
“All of a sudden those plastic eggs, just filling them with candy and prizes, they’re starting to look a whole lot better,” Holcomb said. “And if you’re gonna boil some eggs in color, hang on to them, because you might as well eat them. They’re worth the investment.”