The rising cost of groceries — and in particular, eggs — is getting a lot of attention across the U.S.
So, why are eggs so expensive? And when can shoppers expect the price, now averaging over $4 a dozen, to come down?
Michigan agriculture experts now say the ongoing outbreak of avian influenza, which has led to a whopping 130% increase in the price of eggs, is the worst ever seen in the U.S.
Nationwide, some 58 million birds have been destroyed as the current outbreak has led to a 30% drop in U.S. egg inventories.
Dr. Nancy Barr, Executive Director at Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, said 43 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. have perished to date due to this disease.
"So that has been a significant difference," she told WWJ Newsradio 950's Jon Hewett. "Last time we saw (an outbreak of avian flu) primarily in turkeys, so it is still a concern for us going into the spring."
Barr said that while thus far no egg farms in Michigan have been impacted by the virus, the threat to the states egg-laying hens remains.
"No one has a crystal ball on what's going to happen, so we have to look at the signs in what we're seeing in the wild birds," she said. "Are we still seeing that virus circulating? And indeed we are. That does make us very concerned for the possibility of a virus to get into more poultry farms as we move into the spring, when birds are moving around."
Michigan State University Agriculture Professor David Ortega says along with the ongoing issue of avian flu, there are other factors contributing to the astronomical egg prices.
"We've also seen a rise in feed costs, which represents a little over half of the cost of eggs, in addition to labor costs as well as transportation costs," Ortega said. "So, certainly the bird flu outbreak is having a significant impact, but there are other factors at play that are leading to these increases in egg prices.
Ortega and Barr agree it will likely be until late spring, or early summer of 2023 before U.S. egg production and prices level out.