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Egg Prices Have a Great Fall

Plus, 5 more things, from TVs to bacon, that are getting cheaper as inflation eases

spinner image Cartons of eggs are seen on shelves at Lincoln Market on June 12, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Egg prices have finally cracked.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), egg prices fell 13.8 percent in May, the largest one-month decrease since January 1951. In contrast, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the government’s main gauge of overall inflation, rose 0.1 percent in May from April. 

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A dozen eggs costs $1.11 at the wholesale level, down from $5.29 at the end of 2022, according to Trading Economics. Those price declines have shown up at the retail level; a dozen eggs costs an average $2.31 at grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Avian flu strikes

Egg prices soared in large part because of an outbreak of avian flu, which is nearly 100 percent fatal for chickens. The highly contagious disease killed 52.7 million chickens in 2022, either from the flu itself or from farmers culling the flocks to prevent it from spreading. In Colorado, nearly 85 percent of the state’s egg-laying hens died last year.

Higher energy prices increased the cost of transporting eggs last year. Even the price of chicken feed rose, in part because of increases in the cost of fertilizer — which, in turn, is influenced by energy prices. (Chicken feed often contains corn, soybean meal and wheat.)

This year, the nation’s chicken flocks have rebounded. At the end of December, there were 376 million laying hens, down from 397 million a year earlier, according to the USDA. As of April 2023, there were about 383 million laying hens.

Energy prices have fallen as well. The price of a barrel of West Texas intermediate crude oil, for example, has fallen from $121 a year ago to $69 today. A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, which sold for an average $5.01 a year ago, sells for $3.59 a gallon now.

In large part because of the decline in egg prices, the BLS index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs decreased 1.2 percent in May from April levels.

Inflation moderates in May

The CPI rose 4 percent for the past 12 months, according to the BLS. Although that increase in the rate of inflation is less than half of its 9.1 percent near-term peak recorded in June 2022, it is still higher than economists at the Federal Reserve Bank would like.

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Not all prices rise or fall at the same rate. The five biggest increases were mainly in services, in large part because the low unemployment rate is making companies pay up for labor. The cost of food at home rose 5.8 percent the past 12 months, while the cost of dining out rose 8.3 percent.

The five biggest price gainers the past 12 months:

  • Motor vehicle repair, up 19.7 percent. As the price of new cars rises, more people are buying used cars, which often require more repair. Many of the features that make cars more fuel-efficient also make them more expensive to repair. 
  • Bread, up 12.5 percent. As with many processed foods, the price of bread includes the price of labor — and wages have been rising.
  • Fats and oils, up 11.8 percent. Most foods that rely on oils, such as margarine (up 22.5 percent), salad dressing (up 14.3 percent) and condiments (up 9.5 percent) have seen steep price increases. One reason: The Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s largest producers of sunflower and soybeans.
  • Veterinary services, up 11 percent. Many people adopted pets during the COVID-19 pandemic, and pets require health care. Vets need to hire assistants, buy new equipment and pay rent. Furthermore, becoming a veterinarian is an expensive and difficult process, and there is a limited supply of qualified vets.
  • Shelter, up 8 percent. Rising home prices mean that more people are renting — and that means rents are rising, too. Zillow, a real estate pricing website, says the average rent in the nation is $2,048, up from $1,955 a year earlier, a 5 percent gain. The BLS puts the increase for all types of shelter, including new homes, at 8 percent. 

The five biggest price declines (aside from eggs) the past 12 months:

  • Airline fares, down 13.4 percent. Jet fuel prices have fallen, taking some airline fares down with them.
  • Energy, down 11.7 percent. This category includes gasoline, down 19.7 percent, and fuel oil, down 28.6 percent.
  • Televisions, down 11.5 percent. New televisions are not only lighter but cheaper, and they have more features.
  • Bacon, down 9.8 percent. The price of meat has been relatively stable the past 12 months, rising just 0.4 percent, according to the BLS. But pork products in general have tumbled 2.9 percent, with bacon leading the way down.
  • Used cars and trucks, down 4.2 percent. For a brief period in 2021, some used cars were selling at the same price as new ones because parts needed to make new cars were tangled up in supply chain problems.  No longer. New cars are rolling off assembly lines, giving consumers more choice in what kind of cars to buy.

The CPI measures a market basket of consumer goods reflecting what an average consumer would purchase. BLS data collectors visit (in person or on the web) or call thousands of retail stores, service establishments, rental units and doctors’ offices all over the United States to obtain information on the prices of the thousands of items used to track and measure price changes in the CPI.

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