Eggs have been a pretty cheap, basic food across history.
Well, they were cheap anyway, until recently:
The rising cost of eggs in the U.S. is denting household budgets. Americans in recent years have increased the number of eggs they consume while reducing their intake of beef and venison, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ...
In California, for example, data shows the average price for a dozen eggs reached $7.37 last week, compared with $2.35 a year ago. The national average egg price per dozen wholesale is now $3.30, the USDA said last week. The average price for a dozen eggs by U.S. city grew to a record $3.58 in November, according to the most recent data available from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Those numbers, of course, don't capture the whole story. It's true that eggs are just obscenely expensive in California:
But they're increasingly not cheap anywhere else, either. Here's prices in one part of Texas — that's $8.70 for 18 eggs, or about $6 per dozen.
In some cases, meanwhile, there are simply no eggs available at any price:
So what's behind this spiraling situation? Two familiar factors: Supply and demand.
Egg consumption has grown in part because more families are eating them as their main protein substitute, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonja Sharp told CBS News. "Each of us eats about as many eggs as one hen can lay a year," she said.
As demand for eggs has risen, production in the U.S. has slumped because of the ongoing bird, or "avian," flu epidemic. Nearly 58 million birds have been infected with avian flu as of January 6, the USDA said, making it the deadliest outbreak in U.S. history. Infected birds must be slaughtered, causing egg supplies to fall and prices to surge.
So people have moved away from meat and towards eggs, sending demand up-up-up:
...while bird flu has culled millions of layers from U.S. flocks, driving supply to crater into the ground:
Prices will surely come down again, but it will probably be a while:
Sharp said prices will likely not fall again until after new chickens are born without the infection and grow to egg-laying age. More than 300 flocks of farm-raised poultry have been hit by the outbreak as of last Friday, according to USDA data.
The very modestly good news is that skyrocketing food prices have been offset by decreases in other consumer categories:
The Consumer Price Index — a closely watched inflation gauge — rose 7.1% in December from the previous year. Falling prices for energy, commodities and used cars offset increases in food and shelter.
Stay strong, folks, we're not out of the woods yet.