Egg Prices Are Getting So Bad People Are Buying Their Own Chickens

If you've been to the grocery store in the last few months, you're likely aware that the cost of a dozen eggs is much more than it used to be. Although some farmer-advocacy groups have claimed that price gouging is to blame for the continually increasing prices (via Modern Farmer), the root cause of the problems stems from illness within the United States chicken population.

According to Forbes, HPAI, more commonly known as bird flu, has taken a massive toll on the United States chicken population in recent years. In 2022 alone, the disease reached 58 million birds in almost all 50 states. Sadly, the disease is often fatal, and even when it isn't, farmers are sometimes forced to take extreme measures to ensure that the disease doesn't spread. 

As a result, the egg industry has taken a big hit, putting strain on the market and creating a higher demand for a product that is becoming a tougher-to-find commodity. CBS reports that egg prices increased by 60% between December 2021 and December 2022, with the national average for a dozen eggs rising from around $2 to $4.25. 

Now, Americans are finding one major way around the problem: purchasing their own chickens.

People are buying their own chickens to lower their egg costs

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, people have generally shown more concern about food security. According to The New York Times, purchasing chickens has become more common since this time, and the popularity of the concept has grown considerably as a result of high egg prices. In fact, Iowa-based Murray McMurray Hatchery reports that it has already sold out of most breeds until the summer.

Notably, this phenomenon is not reserved to the Midwestern region of the United States. Chloe Nevarez, a California egg farmer who owns a relatively small egg production business with 15,000 chickens, told Fox 5 San Diego that she currently has a six-month wait list full of people wanting to buy chickens from her farm. 

Indeed, the average consumer's increased willingness to purchase chickens in order to attain eggs is also measurable by internet trends. Between December 2022 and January 2023, Google search interest in raising chickens climbed from 24 to 96 (the interest operates on a scale of 1-100, with 100 meaning "peak popularity"), suggesting that people are more interested in raising their own birds now than almost ever before. 

Unless egg prices dip back to their normal range, that number could continue to grow. Luckily, there is hope on the horizon. 2023 egg prices are already lower than they were in late 2022. In fact, Vox reports that chicken prices dropped to an average of $3.64 in mid-January. While this is substantially lower than December's average, it still has quite a ways to go before it reaches 2021 levels.