The Real Reason Egg Prices Keep Changing

If the price of eggs is keeping you (and your food budget) on your toes, join the club. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, the country's egg producers were talking about challenging conditions and lower revenues because eggs were cheaper. But all that changed after the pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders, which saw retail egg prices go from $1.32 at the end of March, to $3.00 in the beginning of April (via Food Dive).

"It's kind of acting like a national snowstorm, where everyone is getting the same forecast," agriculture analyst Brian Moscogiuri told the outlet. "Everyone knows it's going to impact them for a very, very long period of time, and they're going to be stuck in their houses for maybe longer than they ever have. So eggs are one of those items, along with toilet paper, ... paper goods, cleaning products, etc., because of the nature of what we're going through, that have really cleared off the shelves."

But then, egg prices plunged again to $.95 the week after, but have been swinging between $.95 to $1.50 between mid-April and the end of May. So what is going on?

Egg prices reacted to demand again

With the prices of eggs soaring, grocery store chains, including Walmart and Costco, and egg producers were sued for price gouging (via Today). Moscogiuri defended the industry, saying, "People see a sharp increase in prices and assume they're being gouged, but it's just a function of the market. Egg prices are up because demand is up sharply. Suppliers are seeing four, five, six times the level of demand as before, and there's essentially a fixed supply."

But then, egg prices went down, dramatically. "It's not unusual to have big changes because the demand changes very, very fast, and the supply cannot keep up with that pace," Maro Ibarburu-Blanc, associate scientist at the Iowa State University Egg Industry Center said by way of explanation. Of course egg supply and demand is a very complicated process; so there is a lot involved, from how many eggs hens lay, to how many are quality enough to make it to market.

And so, this probably won't be the last of egg price fluctuation!