Everyone has been talking about the drastic rise in egg prices here in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of eggs has increased 120% from January to December of 2022. Now, I’m just a small scale farmer from the Adirondacks, but I happen to be a farmer who has studied agriculture for six years of my life at the undergraduate and graduate levels, so I do have a solid handle on agricultural economics, and some thoughts as to why the prices are what they are.

The United States is currently experiencing a massive outbreak of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 49 million birds across 46 states have either died or been culled due to avian influenza. This disease is highly contagious, and is a reportable disease, meaning that suspected cases must be reported to state veterinary officials. If an infection is confirmed, state officials must depopulate all of the farm’s birds to prevent the virus from spreading. Tens of millions of laying hens have been lost, as well as breeding stock and young pullets being raised to become future laying hens.

Not only have farmers been coping with the threat of bird flu looming over their heads, they have been faced with large increases in the cost of labor and feed. With the job market being favorable to job seekers, it has been difficult for farms to maintain an adequate number of laborers, who are often working long, hard hours for little pay. Corn and soybeans, both important ingredients in most livestock feeds, reached record high prices in 2022 and remained at these levels after the harvest. Many factors are currently affecting the global grain market, one of which is the war in Ukraine. Ukraine is a critical producer of grain and oilseeds, with exports totaling $27.8 billion in 2021. Although a deal with Russia has been brokered by the UN to move stored grain out of the country, Russia has already broken the agreement once, leaving room for doubt as to its continuation in the future.

The bottom line is that the food security that many Americans have come to enjoy is not guaranteed. We saw major disruptions to the supply chain during the height of the pandemic, and we’ve been seeing them ever since. We need to decentralize the American food system to promote resiliency within it; the best way to do this is by supporting the small scale farms in our local communities!

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