U.S. Egg Prices Begin to Moderate

Apr 15, 2008, 01:00 ET from United Egg Producers

    ALPHARETTA, Ga., April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. egg prices are beginning
 to moderate now that the traditional Easter demand has subsided, says the
 United Egg Producers (UEP), a trade association that represents most U.S.
 egg farmers.
     (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20051003/CLM056LOGO )
     The Urner-Barry index, which tracks market trends of U.S. egg farm
 prices declined 25 percent in the three weeks since Easter (March 23 -
 April 10, 2008), to $1.25 per dozen in the Midwest Region and $1.39 in
 California. Although retail egg prices are always higher than farmer
 prices, this price reduction should begin showing up in the grocery stores
 within the next month, according to Gene Gregory, president of UEP.
     Currently, retail egg prices average about $2.16 for regular, modern
 eggs, $3.00 for cage free and about $3.50 for free range, depending on the
 markets, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and American Farm
 Bureau reports.
     "Even at 20 or 25 cents per egg, eggs are a great nutritional value,"
 Gregory said. "Each egg contains six grams of protein and 13 essential
 nutrients like choline, folate, iron and zinc which can play a role in
 healthy brain function and eye health."
     U.S. egg farmers also are increasing the amount of eggs they produce to
 supply the growing U.S. consumption, which now totals 76 billion eggs per
 year, or 253 eggs per person. UEP says that the "hatch" of young chickens
 which will soon be laying eggs is up 5 percent from one year ago.
     Egg farmers have been hesitant to increase the supply of eggs up until
 now despite high demand and prices. Their hesitancy has been borne out of
 prior years' experiences when they overproduced eggs and lost millions of
 dollars. Farmers' costs for fuel and feed also have risen sharply over the
 past two years as a result of higher prices for oil and gas as well as
 higher prices for corn and soybeans used in chicken feed.
     Ironically, one of the steps that U.S. egg farmers adopted several
 years ago was a sweeping, progressive animal welfare program called UEP
 Certified that increased the amount of space for egg-laying hens by 50
 percent and provided them enough room to help ensure that they could easily
 stand upright, turn around, and walk to the feeders and water nipples.
 However, by providing hens more space, farmers now have fewer egg-laying
 hens in each hen house, which has contributed to the slightly smaller
 supply of eggs.
     The tightening credit markets have made it more difficult for some
 farmers to borrow the millions of dollars required to build new hen houses,
 Gregory said. In addition, farmers were hesitant to invest money in new,
 modern hen houses because some animal rights activists have been pushing
 for new laws which would ban the modern hen houses that are required to
 produce eggs. Californians will be the first to vote in November on this
 ban, which would virtually eliminate almost all egg production in that
 state and could force California consumers to pay much higher prices for
 eggs that will have to be trucked in from other states.
     "We don't believe that California consumers will want to vote to
 increase their grocery bills, or have their eggs not produced by local
 farmers," Gregory said. "We believe that those choices are better left to
 consumers to make inside their own grocery store than in the voting booth."

SOURCE United Egg Producers