Breaking egg prices ease, but supply remains critical

by Ron Sterk
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Eggs in carton
Prices for Grade A large eggs at retail topped $3 a dozen in several markets.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The spread of H5N5 highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States appeared to be slowing as temperatures increased in mid-June, but the impact on egg and egg product markets still was increasing.

Prices for Grade A large eggs at retail topped $3 a dozen in several markets, including Iowa, which has lost more than 29 million chickens, equal to about half of its laying flock, which is the nation’s largest. Prices for wholesale graded eggs averaged $2.44½ a dozen in the Midwest on June 12, up 3c from a week earlier, up 140 percent from early May and nearly double the year-ago value, the US Depart. of Agriculture said.

Prices for breaking stock eggs, those used by processors for liquid, frozen and dried egg products, fell in the past week but remained at historical levels. Sosland Publishing’s Food Business News quoted nest run eggs at $1.97 to $2.07 a dozen on June 12, down 38 cents from a record high $2.35 to $2.40 a dozen a week earlier and still three times prices in mid-April.

Prices for egg products continued to rise to new record highs in the latest week, according to quotes in Food Business News aggregated from egg processors and public and private reporting services, including the USDA and Urner Barry. Dried whole eggs were quoted at $9 to $10 a lb., up 50 cents from a week earlier, three times early-May values and more than double the year-ago price. Frozen whole eggs were quoted at $2.15 to $2.35 a lb., up 10 cents from a week earlier, nearly three times the early-May price and up 84 percent from last year. Liquid whole eggs were quoted at $2 to $2.25 a lb., up 15 cents from a week earlier, nearly four times the early-May price and more than double a year ago.

But supply is the real issue facing food manufacturers as well as restaurants that have made eggs a key breakfast feature. The nation’s largest egg processor earlier declared force majeure on contracts after losing about 35 percent of its egg supply. Other egg processors are serving long-standing customers with reduced shipments, but most are unable to provide supply to new customers. Some eggs intended for hatching have been diverted to processors or retail, but the supply situation remains critical as of mid-June.

The USDA reported as of June 9 that more than 47 million birds, including more than 39 million chickens, mostly laying hens, died or were euthanized because of avian influenza. Although the spread of the virus appeared to be slowing, there was no firm estimate of when it would be under control. Trade sources said it would be several months, if not more than a year, to fully rebuild flocks, assuming there are no further outbreaks.

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