Wholesale egg prices have ‘collapsed.’ Why consumers may soon see relief

Egg shelves in New York on Jan. 21, 2023 with a note apologizing to customers for the price increase.
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Wholesale egg prices have cratered in recent weeks from record highs, meaning consumers may soon see relief at the grocery store.

But the dynamics of egg pricing from the wholesale to retail market, in addition to other factors, means that's not a sure thing in the short term.

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Prices fell to $2.61 per dozen eggs on Monday — a 52% decrease from the peak around $5.43 on Dec. 19 and a 47% decrease from the beginning of 2023, according to Urner Barry, a market research firm that specializes in the wholesale food industry. Its Midwest Large White Egg price benchmark is a widely cited barometer in the egg industry.

"Prices have collapsed," said Angel Rubio, senior analyst at Urner Barry. "That's a big, big adjustment downward."

Historic bird flu outbreak led to soaring egg prices

Farmers get a reprieve and consumers show 'resistance'

Here's why eggs cost so much
Here's why eggs cost so much
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Weekly retail egg data from the USDA is spotty, and it's difficult to see how cratering wholesale prices may be translating in the retail market.

On average, it takes about four weeks for retail prices to reflect wholesale price trends, Rubio said. That means consumers may start to see some relief in February, he said.

Retail prices tend to be less volatile than those at the wholesale level. For every 10% decrease or increase in wholesale egg price, consumers can expect retail prices to shift about 2%, on average, Rubio said.

However, egg demand also generally increases in the weeks preceding Easter, which this year falls on April 9 — making it hard to determine how prices will respond, Rubio said.

There are other factors that may keep retail egg prices elevated for longer, however.

Supermarket chains and other egg retailers don't all peg their shelf prices to movements in wholesale prices, economists said. They may buy eggs from suppliers according to different formulas; some are at least partially tied to the price of corn and soybeans, for example, which represent a big cost to raise and feed chickens, Moscogiuri said.

While prices for those commodities are down from highs following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, they remain historically elevated.    

Some supermarkets may have tried keeping egg prices down so as not to dissuade consumers from shopping — and may now try to recoup some of their losses before lowering retail prices, Moscogiuri said.

"It's kind of up to the retailer as to how quickly they want to pass prices along," he said.

While bird flu hasn't impacted commercial egg-laying flocks since December, there have been confirmed cases among other types of birds — meaning it's still "a major risk heading into the spring migration," Moscogiuri said. The first case among egg layers last year was detected Feb. 22.


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