By Tristan Teng
Right now, egg sections in grocery stores all over San Diego are characterized by two things: higher prices and empty shelves.
On Tuesday, NBC7 visited five grocery stores in Mission Valley: Vons, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Food 4 Less, and Ralph’s. At the first three locations, multiple shelves were empty as several egg options were sold out. Food 4 Less and Ralph’s had more supply but were still affected. At the latter store, two signs were displayed in the egg section.
The first one read: “Due to the avian bird flu and to support all customers, we are limiting egg cartons to two each per customer. Thank you for your understanding and we apologize for the inconvenience.” The second one read: “At this time, there’s a nationwide shortage of eggs. With high seasonal demand, you may notice fewer supplies or higher prices. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
A major reason for the shortages and high prices is that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), or bird flu, has killed millions of hens in the country. In May, a USDA memo explained that HPAI has now impacted 164 commercial poultry operations, including 18 egg facilities.
Chloe Nevarez, the co-owner of Happy Hens in Ramona, CA, owns 15,000 hens who have not been affected by HPAI, but the ripple effects throughout the industry are still evident. She explains that over the past month, lots of people have been coming to her farm to buy eggs because of grocery store shortages. In Nevarez’s words, “There’s just a huge deficit. There’s no way that I could possibly fill the need for millions of birds not producing eggs, and now there’s people who are like, ‘OK, well, there’s no eggs.’ “
California has some of the highest prices in the nation for a carton of twelve eggs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Based on Tuesday’s numbers, the benchmark price for USDA Grade AA medium eggs was $4.76, while large eggs were $6.72 and extra large to jumbo eggs were $6.74. In their “Daily California Eggs” update” The USDA stated, “the southwest shell egg inventory decreased 20.8% compared to a week ago.”