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

The rising egg costs in the US, household budgets are denting. In recent years, Americans have increased the number of eggs they eat 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 their main protein substitute, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonja Sharp told CBS News. “Each of us eats about as many eggs as a hen can lay in a year,” she said.

As demand for eggs has increased, production in the United States has fallen due to the ongoing avian or “bird flu epidemic”[ads1];.. Nearly 58 million birds have been infected with bird flu as of Jan. 6, the USDA said, making it the deadliest outbreak in U.S. history. Infected birds have to be slaughtered, causing the egg supply to drop and prices to rise.

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

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

Sharp said prices likely won’t drop again until after 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 USDA data.

In New York, grocery store owner Jose Filipe said skyrocketing egg costs have caused many customers to change their spending habits.

“I’ve seen customers move from buying organic eggs now to more conventional eggs, and especially now, the half-dozen. Prices have quadrupled in about six or seven months,” he recently told CBS New York’s Jenna DeAngelis.

What is bird flu?

Bird flu is carried 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 epidemic of the disease, 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 researching a potential vaccine against bird flu.

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

The cost of processed eggs – used in liquid or powdered form in manufactured products including salad dressing, cake mix and chips – has also increased, adding to inflationary pressures.

The Consumer Price Index – a closely watched gauge of inflation – rose 7.1 percent in December from the previous year. Falling prices for energy, raw materials and used cars offset the increase in food and shelter.

Even with the cost increases, however, eggs remain relatively cheap compared to the price of other proteins such as chicken or beef, with a pound of chicken breast costing $4.42 on average in November and a pound of ground beef selling for $4.85, according to the government. data.

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

“We (with neighbours) are considering building a chicken coop behind our houses, so in the end I hope not to buy them and have my own eggs, and I think the cost comes into it a bit,” said the 46-year-old school teacher. while shopping at HarvestsTime Foods on the city’s north side. “For me, it’s more about the environmental impact and trying to buy local.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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