Lodi News-Sentinel

Why we’re still shelling out more for eggs

- Austin Fuller

Even as inflation begins to level off, the cost of eggs is soaring.

Bird flu across the country is the prime suspect for the high-flying problem. Buyers are flocking to other options, and some politician­s are clucking.

Egg prices jumped 11.1% from November to December and were up 59.9% from December 2021, according to the federal Consumer Price Index. The index for all items dropped 0.1% from November to December, while grocery store food overall went up just 0.2%.

That has some consumers changing how they shop.

Patty White, 44, of Orlando, said she normally buys eggs at Aldi where she was used to paying about $2 for a dozen, a figure that she recalls has gotten closer to $5 recently. But on a recent trip to Publix, White and her partner found they could get better eggs for about $5.50.

“We saw that we could get the free-range, organic, really pretty eggs for like 10 cents more [than normal eggs at Publix] so why wouldn’t we?” White said.

Ocoee’s Lake Meadow Naturals farm, which sells its eggs to Central Florida restaurant­s such as Prato and Swine & Sons in Winter Park, can’t keep up with growing demand and isn’t taking on new customers, owner Dale Volkert said.

He said he believes that demand for his cage-free eggs has surged because commodity eggs, or the type people normally find at the grocery store, have gone up so much in price.

“Commodity eggs at the store now are more expensive than cage-free,” Volkert said.

But bird flu is also making it harder for Volkert to get more chickens.

The virus has been confirmed in 308 commercial and 423 backyard flocks across the country, affecting 57.87 million birds, according to the U.S. Department of Agricultur­e. No commercial flocks in Florida have been stricken, but 23 backyard flocks have been.

Lake Meadow Naturals typically has 12,000 to 15,000 egg-laying chickens, and Volkert wants to increase that to 18,000 to 20,000, he said. He hopes to have the new chickens by summer but is cautious. “The unknowns are our biggest fear right now,” Volkert said.

He said he is also facing higher costs as feed, labor and even egg cartons have all gone up in price. He’s working to protect his birds from avian influenza by restrictin­g who can enter his chicken houses and cutting back on how much time his animals spend outside.

At an Orlando Publix on Tuesday, a dozen large, storebrand eggs cost $5.79, more than the $3.49 price per pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs or the $4.99 price per pound of ground chuck beef. At a Winter Park Publix, the price for 18 extra large eggs was $8.54.

Representa­tives for Lakelandba­sed Publix did not respond to questions from the Orlando Sentinel.

Winn-Dixie’s Jacksonvil­le owner Southeaste­rn Grocers is navigating the national supply chain challenges with eggs and “the further pressures resulting from the recent outbreak of avian flu,” said a statement from Meredith Hurley, senior director for communicat­ions and community.

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