Egg prices have more than tripled in some states over the past year. Here’s why.

The increase in the price of eggs in the US it destroys household budgets. Americans have increased the number of eggs they consume in recent years while reducing their intake of beef and game, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture.

Egg consumption has increased in part because more families are eating them as a major protein substitute, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonya Sharp told CBS News. “Each of us eats about as many eggs as one hen can lay in a year,” she said.

As demand for eggs has increased, U.S. production has declined because of the ongoing avian, or “bird” flu epidemics. Nearly 58 million birds were infected with bird flu by Jan. 6, the USDA said, making it the deadliest outbreak in US history. Infected birds must be slaughtered, causing egg supplies to fall and prices to rise.

Families and restaurants are now paying higher prices for eggs as the outbreak affects 47 states.

In California, for example, data showed the average price for a dozen eggs reached $7.37 last week, compared to $2.35 a year ago. The national average wholesale price for eggs per dozen is now $3.30, the USDA said last week. The average price for a dozen eggs in the US city rose to a record $3.58 in November, according to the latest data available from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Sharpe said prices probably won’t drop again until new chicks are born free of infection and grow to egg-laying age. More than 300 flocks of farm-raised poultry have been affected by the outbreak since last Friday, according to the USDA.

In New York, grocery store owner Jose Filipe said the rising cost of eggs has caused many customers to change their spending habits.

“I’ve seen customers gravitate from buying organic eggs to more conventional eggs, specifically right now, half a dozen.” “The prices quadrupled in about six or seven months,” he said she recently told CBS New York’s Jenny DeAngelis.

What is bird flu?

Avian influenza is transmitted by free-flying waterfowl, such as ducks, geese and shorebirds, and infects chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl. In another major recent disease outbreak, it killed more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in 2014 and 2015, while causing economic losses of $3.3 billion, the USDA estimates. The agency is now investigating a potential bird flu vaccine.

Fortunately, the public health risk associated with bird flu remains low, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, as a general rule of thumb for food safety, it is advised to cook all poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F.

The price of processed eggs — used in liquid or powdered form in industrial products including salad dressing, cookie mix and potato chips — also rose, adding to inflationary pressures.

The Consumer Price Index — a closely watched gauge of inflation — increased by 7.1% in December from the previous year. Falling energy, commodity and used car prices offset increases in food and accommodation.

However, even with the increase in costs, eggs remain relatively cheap compared to the price of other proteins such as chicken or beef, with a pound of chicken breast averaging $4.42 in November and a pound of ground beef at $4.85 , the government says. data.

But if egg prices remain elevated, Chicago resident Kelly Fisher said she’ll start thinking more seriously about building a backyard chicken coop because everyone in her family eats eggs.

“We (with our neighbors) are thinking of building a chicken coop behind our houses, so in the end I’m hoping not to buy them and have my own eggs and I think that comes down to the cost somewhat,” the 46-year-old public school teacher said while shopping at HarvestTime Foods on the north side of town. “For me, it’s more about impacting the environment and trying to buy locally.”

—The Associated Press contributed to this report

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