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Egg Prices Soar in US Amid Bird Flu and Inflation

In recent weeks, U.S. consumers have been facing rising costs of everyday groceries, with eggs and lettuce experiencing the most significant increases since the start of this year.

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U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell attends a press conference in Washington, D.C., the United States, on June 12, 2024. (U.S. Federal Reserve/Handout via Xinhua)

The prices of eggs, a staple in American households and among the most volatile grocery items, are soaring once again as bird flu hits chicken flocks across the United States.

Consumers like Jane Thompson, a resident living in Sunnyvale, California, are feeling the pinch.

“I buy eggs every week for my family. They’re such an important part of our meals,” Thompson said while shopping at a local Costco store on Sunday. “Just two weeks ago, I paid 3.78 U. S. dollars for two dozen, and now the price is 4.99.”

A manager at the Costco store, who didn’t give her name, told Xinhua that egg prices had been volatile recently. “The prices of eggs change weekly or even daily,” she said.

In recent weeks, U.S. consumers have been facing rising costs of everyday groceries, with eggs and lettuce experiencing the most significant increases since the start of this year, according to a Forbes report citing the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data from the consumer price index revealed a 9.5 percent surge in egg prices from last November through May. Simon M. Shane, a poultry veterinarian and adjunct professor at North Carolina State University, attributed this rise to the ongoing Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak.

HPAI, commonly known as bird flu, had decimated chicken flocks nationwide, with an estimated 20 million to 22 million hens lost, Shane wrote in an analysis posted on egg-news.com Wednesday.

“Close to 13 million hens were lost during the 4th quarter of 2023 that have not yet been completely replaced. During April 2024, almost 8.4 million hens were depopulated, with an additional 5.7 million during May,” Shane wrote.

He added that as a result, the total industry inventory was down by 4 percent overall to 1.53 million cases during the last week of June.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reported similar findings in its 2024 Food Outlook, saying that an “outbreak of HPAI that began in 2022 contributed to elevated egg prices by reducing the U.S. egg-layer flock.”

After egg prices peaked in January 2023, they declined or stabilized through much of 2023. However, new confirmations of HPAI in egg layers beginning in November 2023 drove price increases in late 2023 and early 2024. In May 2024, prices for farm-level eggs were 97.6 percent higher than in May 2023, according to the ERS report updated on June 25.

“The ongoing HPAI outbreak continues to affect egg-layer flocks, with volatile effects on prices,” said the report, adding that egg prices are “the most volatile category” tracked by the ERS.

Shane warned that the future of HPAI outbreaks remained uncertain, with sporadic cases in backyard poultry and dairy herds raising concerns.

Beyond eggs, lettuce prices had also soared by 10.3 percent from November 2023 to May 2024, according to the Forbes report. The price hike was mainly due to poor weather conditions in California and Arizona, crucial lettuce-growing regions.

The western states, where lettuce largely grows, are struggling with water supply and labor costs, and the labor-intensive nature of lettuce cultivation, coupled with rising minimum wages in California, further contributed to the price hikes, Dawn Thilmany, a professor of agricultural economics at Colorado State University, was quoted by Forbes as saying.

The overall Consumer Price Index, a measure of economy-wide inflation, rose 0.2 percent from April to May 2024 and 3.3 percent compared to May 2023.

Meanwhile, according to the ERS report, food prices increased by 2.1 percent year-over-year, with grocery store purchases up 1 percent and restaurant purchases up 4 percent.

With the November election looming, inflation and rising costs are major concerns for voters. A recent poll by the research company Ipsos revealed that 49 percent of swing state voters considered inflation the most pressing issue facing the country.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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