WASHINGTON, D.C. -The latest blow to U.S. egg supplies (that have not fully recovered from disruptions brought on by the pandemic) is the worst outbreak of HPAI in years. At least 11 million layers have been lost in recent weeks. With USDA reporting new cases almost daily in South Dakota and other states and depopulation of operations ranging from in the tens of thousands to more than 5.3 million birds, estimating the total expected losses is challenging.
The most recent USDA weekly shell egg demand indicator shows about five days of inventory are currently on hand, which normally suggests a tight, but not alarmingly tight supply. However, it does not appear that supplies will be able to accommodate the reduction in layers as a result of HPAI outbreaks, especially at a regional level.
Current supply pressures coincide with typical in-store grocery features ahead of Easter celebrations. With eggs serving a dual purpose of both decoration and cooking supply, retailers typically rely on eggs as a loss-leader. Market forces result in seasonally higher wholesale values for shell eggs ahead of Easter, but with the tight supply situation now exacerbated by flock reductions, prices are above fundamental ceilings. Consumers are likely to absorb some of the cost increases as they seek to fill their baskets with eggs prior to Easter.