Egg prices have fallen after record highs left consumers scrambling

Used and unused eggs sit in a carton of 18 in a Chicago area home Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Anyone going to buy eggs these days will have to be ready to pay up because the lingering bird flu outbreak, combined with soaring feed, fuel and labor costs, has driven prices up significantly. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Egg prices, pushed to record highs last year by an avian flu outbreak, have dropped. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

After a bird flu outbreak last year caused egg prices to skyrocket across the country, consumers are getting some relief.

After significant drops over the previous four weeks, the average price for a dozen large eggs May 5 in California was $1.68, versus a high of $7.37 in January and $2.35 a year prior, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An increase in supply was the primary reason for the price decline.

"United States egg production totaled 9.21 billion during March 2023," the USDA report said. This is down 3% from the same period last year but an improvement from the nearly 30% drop seen in 2022 due to avian flu. More than 43 million chickens were lost that year, according to the agency.

Avian flu resulted in 29% fewer eggs on the market during the final week of December than at the beginning of 2022, according to the USDA. Demand for eggs typically spikes in December.

With production back on track, prices have returned to pre-outbreak levels.

California's Proposition 12, which required that hens be cage-free in 2022, may have contributed to some price increases, according to an analysis by the state’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office. The tightened supply left store shelves empty.

The price spike led to increases in seizures of eggs at the Mexican border by Customs and Border Patrol agents. Seizures at the San Diego field office from October through December were up 384% from the same period in 2021. Uncooked eggs are not allowed into the U.S. from Mexico because of the risk of disease.

The cheaper eggs are good news for California's poorest, who have felt inflation in food prices the most. Last year, food banks reported an increase in first-time users as food costs rose rapidly. Though prices for staples remain elevated, consumers can count on less-expensive eggs — for now.

Times staff writer Salvador Hernandez contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.