KANSAS CITY — The egg industry is off to a shaky start in 2023. After Midwest Grade A Large shell eggs recently notched their ninth all-time price record for the year, supported by robust consumer demand and ongoing impacts from the relentless highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, it’s hard to imagine that egg prices will normalize any time soon. But the US Department of Agriculture in a recent weekly Egg Markets Overview indicated likely signs of weaker tones in egg values along with softening consumer demand. 

In the Dec. 30, 2022, report the USDA said wholesale buyers should expect to see a price decline for carton shell eggs in 2023 across several markets. Values for national trading of trucklot quantities of graded, loose, white large shell eggs were $4.12 per dozen, down 63¢, or 13%, from a month ago. However, the USDA said prices for Midwest wholesale large shell eggs delivered to warehouses were raised 23¢, to $5.30 per dozen, while prices paid to Midwest producers declined 13¢, to $4.98.

Consumer demand showed signs of decline in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and overall supplies were expected to increase. The massive snowstorm just before the Christmas holiday may have contributed to the increase in available supplies as the storm disrupted both transport of shell eggs to retail outlets and interfered with consumers traveling to grocery stores to stock up on last-minute supplies for their holiday baking needs. 

Demand from breaker operations also diminished in December. Holiday schedules tend to pressure demand since many plants cease operations during this period. As processors return to production in the new year, demand from this corner is expected to remain flat since breakers traditionally lean upon inventories for immediate needs while waiting for shell egg prices to fall during the post-holiday lull.

Of course, the road for eggs in 2023 and whether or not prices will begin to slide from the previous year’s exponential peaks largely will be determined by future cases of HPAI. So far, there have not been any cases reported in the new year but given the virulency and unprecedented nature of this particular viral strain, it is difficult to imagine that track record lasting very long.

To date, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed 717 flocks across 47 states have been infected with HPAI, including 306 commercial flocks and 411 backyard flocks, resulting in the destruction of 57.82 million birds.