Egg prices good for consumers, bad for farmers

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eggs on conveyor
Prices vary across the country, but some grocery stores in Ohio have recently featured eggs priced as low as 49 cents a dozen. That's great news for shoppers, but egg producers are taking a huge hit. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

GREENVILLE, Ohio — Shoppers may be thrilled to see a dozen eggs as low as 49 cents, but egg producers are cringing at the price, the lowest in at least a decade.

In Darke County, Ohio, the state’s highest producer of eggs, some businesses are trimming their flocks to contend with the steep dive in nationwide egg prices. The Buckeye State is second in the nation in egg production, just behind Iowa.

Supply and demand

The dip in egg prices stems from a nationwide glut of eggs on the market. In 2015, an avian influenza outbreak forced many farmers in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska to destroy millions of their infected birds. With fewer hens laying, the supply declined, and the price of eggs skyrocketed. Producers then took on more birds to try to take advantage of the high egg prices.

In time, with so many hens producing, the egg supply surged, dropping the price per dozen. Egg prices fell by 21 percent in 2016, and this year, egg prices are expected to decline an additional 5 to 6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“What comes up, must come down and vice versa,” said Zoe Plakias, an agricultural economist with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. “Any time you have a market disruption, it takes time to adjust.”

In Darke County, some egg producers have stopped replacing their aging hens that go out of production to lower the number of eggs on the market.

Cage-free hit too

Some farmers that raised cageless hens, expecting they would lay eggs that sell for $4 a dozen, have slowed the expansion of that practice, given the minimal demand for the pricey cageless eggs, said Sam Custer, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

“I don’t recall a time when it’s gotten this ugly,” he said.

Since the winter of 2016, it has been tough for egg producers, with the exception of Christmas and Easter, when the industry typically experiences boosts in egg sales, Custer said.

“Right now,” Custer said, “they’re truly just hanging on.”

The national average price of eggs was $1.68 in May 2016, and by July  2017, the retail price declined to 82 cents per dozen. Prices vary across the country. Some grocery stores in Ohio have recently featured eggs priced as low as 49 cents a dozen.

USDA shell egg prices

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