IONIA — Alex Korts noticed that the price of eggs started to rise last fall.
Courts, general manager of Ken’s Farm Market in Ionia, wasn’t upset at the time — but that has changed.
“Once (prices) get to a certain point, which is really the highest we’ve ever seen — sometime in mid-to-late fall (of 2022) — that’s when I thought, ‘OK, this is a little unusual,'” Courts said.
More:Zeeland is discussing a potential supplement for ‘food-producing’ pets, including bees and chickens
More:Why are egg prices so high? And when will it come down?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, the average price for a dozen Grade A eggs in the U.S. was $4.25 in December 2022, compared to $1.79 in December 2021. That’s an increase of about 237 percent.
Why are the prices so high? It’s a toss-up between higher production costs and bird flu outbreaks. The USDA reports that more than 43 million laying hens have died since the outbreak began in February 2022.
Nancy Barr, executive director of Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, said there are “numerous variables” that affect the price of eggs in Michigan. She said farmers don’t set the price — they sell their eggs on the open market, and prices change daily.
“(Market influences) include inflation, supply chain and labor costs, which affect everything,” she said, adding that Michigan egg farmers are very sensitive to the cost of fuel, which directly affects the cost of feed and packaging. .
“On the other hand, eggs are still the cheapest protein Americans can buy, and budget-conscious consumers who see big spikes in beef are choosing to buy eggs, boosting demand at grocery stores across the state.”
Barr said the health and welfare of the birds in the care of farmers is of the utmost importance.
“Bird flu killed more than 40 million laying hens in the U.S. in 2022, and while Michigan farmers avoided a major outbreak, our farmers continue to be vigilant with preventative biosecurity tactics,” Barr said. “These health and safety protocols also contribute to increased prices.”
And then there’s the shift to cage-free egg production — which is more expensive.
Ken’s Farm Market in Ionia worried customers would be upset by the higher prices. At one point, a dozen eggs cost $5, Courts said.
“It really stayed that course through the late fall, through the holidays and into the new year,” he said.
The business has found some brands that provide better value, Courts said. They also explored the market for cage-free eggs, announcing the week of January 9 that large cage-free eggs are available for $3.99 per dozen
“It’s been really good for us, it’s been (good) for our customers and it’s been a little bit of value for us,” Courts said.
But some Michiganders are tired of waiting for prices to drop. Jamestown resident Patricia Krauss told TV-8 WOOD TV-8 she received an influx of requests for eggs after she started raising her own chickens last year.
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Krauss told the station that she typically sells eggs for $7-$8 per dozen, but said the product is of high quality.
“Farm fresh eggs are… better and should be more expensive than store bought eggs because we know what we’re feeding our chickens; we know they’re taken care of,” Kraus said.
At least one municipality is considering changing its ordinance to allow residents to keep pets for food production, including chickens and bees. The city of Zeeland in Ottawa County began exploring the change after seeing an increase in demand in response to the pandemic and rising prices.
It is unclear when egg prices will return to normal, but there has been a decline since early 2023.
“I think there’s hope that things will go down,” Courts said.
— Contact reporter Evan Sasiela at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SalsaEvan.