Little may be done to control the flight of wild birds, but flight patterns are known and the industry has much better biosecurity controls in place now than was the case a few months ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is testing wild birds to detect the presence of A.I. as well as taking other measures to prevent an outbreak or limit the spread should one recur, including issuance of its “Fall 2015 H.P.A.I. preparedness and response plan” in September.
Egg and egg product prices have been on a rollercoaster-like ride this year because of the A.I. outbreak, which was the worst in U.S. history claiming about 48 million birds, including more than 42 million chickens, mostly layers of eggs for the processing industry. In January nest run eggs (breaking stock) hit 2½-year lows around 50c a dozen, the lowest since June 2012. By June 2015, well into the A.I. outbreak, prices had soared 4.7 times to a record $2.35 a dozen and higher. Values then tumbled 35% by the first of July as it became obvious the outbreak was under control.
Prices then surged back to the June record level in early August as shortages of eggs and egg products were being realized. Since then, prices have plunged more than 50% to around $1.12 a dozen and above, still more than double the January 2015 price and about 20% above year-ago levels.
The ride for graded eggs (those sold at retail) also has been dramatic, based on U.S.D.A. regional average prices, even though the impact of A.I. was worse for breaking stock than retail eggs since Iowa, which accounts for about 20% of the nation’s processing eggs, suffered the greatest laying hen losses. Wholesale Grade A large eggs averaged $2.42 to $2.51½ a dozen in mid-June, about 2.3 times the January low, dropped about 25% by mid-July then climbed about 45% to fresh record highs of $2.67 to $2.85½ a dozen by mid-August. Consumer resistance to prices above $3 a dozen in the grocery store again sent wholesale prices plunging 45% to around $1.50 a dozen by mid-October. Egg prices in the grocery store dropped below $2 a dozen in some areas during October.