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Egg prices rose and remained high during and after the 2014-15 U.S. highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) caused the loss of more than 50 million U.S. chickens and turkeys between December 2014 and June 2015, the largest poultry health disaster in U.S. history. More than 80 percent of bird losses were recorded between April 17 and May 19, 2015. Table-egg laying chickens accounted for a large majority of the lost birds; about 12 percent of the U.S. table-egg laying chicken flock was lost. As production fell, egg prices rose sharply. May-December 2015 prices for consumer-grade eggs were 61 percent higher than the previous year. The price increase far surpassed the production losses on a relative basis, reflecting what economists call inelastic demand, meaning that the quantity demanded of a good is not particularly sensitive to changes in price. Consumers did not cut back on their demand, i.e. purchases, even when prices rose, pushing prices even higher. Price increases for processing-grade eggs, often used by restaurants, bakers, and other commercial operations, rose, too. This reflects commercial users’ inelastic demand due, in part, to the difficulty they face in finding substitutes for eggs in their products. A version of this chart appears in the April 2018 ERS Amber Waves article, "Egg Price Impacts of the 2014-15 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak."

Broiler weights start 2018 by showing continued growth

Friday, March 23, 2018

U.S. broiler meat production continues to grow, reaching 3.6 billion pounds in January 2018, almost 4 percent higher than the previous year. For the year, USDA expects broiler production to reach 42.6 billion pounds, almost 1 billion pounds more than was produced in 2017, and nearly 2 billion more than in 2016. One of the factors driving higher broiler meat production is a steady increase in the average weight of the birds slaughtered. Weights in January 2018 averaged 6.26 pounds, about one percent above a year ago, and more than 4 percent higher than January 2014. Broiler weights tend to follow a cyclical pattern, peaking during the late fall or early winter and achieving their lowest average weights at the height of the summer, but they have shown year-over-year gains in most months over the past 5 years. This chart is from the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook newsletter, released in March 2018.

U.S. egg imports surged during and after the 2014-15 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak

Monday, March 12, 2018

The 2014-15 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak had a widespread impact on the U.S. poultry sector, hitting egg producers the hardest. The outbreak resulted in the loss of roughly 12 percent of the total U.S. table-egg laying population, which limited production and drove up domestic wholesale prices for all egg grades, including those used for processing by restaurants, bakers, and other food manufacturers. During this period, egg market supplies were bolstered by a very large increase in imports, including shell eggs graded for processing as well as liquid and dried egg products. Before 2015, these imports were marginal, attributable in part to rigorous country certification standards and less competitive prices due to typically robust domestic egg production (the Netherlands, for example, had to recertify after allowing their certification to lapse). After the outbreak, however, monthly imports of these items peaked above 15 percent of the processed eggs available domestically. As production recovered and domestic prices returned to pre-outbreak levels, U.S. egg imports returned to more stable levels, falling by 74 percent in 2017 to total 32 million dozen, just 2 million dozen more than the single month’s total in December 2015. This chart appears in the ERS report, Impacts of the 2014-2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak on the U.S. Poultry Sector, released in December 2017.

The 2014-15 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak significantly impacted turkey and egg producers

Friday, January 12, 2018

The 2014-15 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak was the largest poultry health disaster in U.S. history. More than 50 million birds were lost to the disease itself or to depopulation, overshadowing bird losses during any previous U.S. outbreak. HPAI resulted in lower commodity production when supplies had previously been growing. USDA’s November 2014 forecasts for 2015 anticipated a 3-percent annual increase in both broiler and turkey production and a 2-percent increase in egg production. These projections, however, preceded the outbreak, which lowered egg and turkey production substantially during and afterward. In contrast, HPAI did not affect broiler production, with production growth continuing through 2015 and aligning with prior forecasts. Egg production declined for about 9 months, with the sharpest reduction occurring from May to December 2015, as production remained 10 percent below 2014 levels. The impact of HPAI on turkey production was initially similar to its impact on egg production, but it rebounded faster. While monthly production for June-July 2015 averaged 10 percent below the prior year, monthly production in August-December 2015 averaged only 5 percent lower. This chart appears in the ERS report Impacts of the 2014-2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak on the U.S. Poultry Sector, released in December 2017.

Baking supplies cost less in 2016 than in 2015

Friday, December 16, 2016

This holiday season, consumers buying baking ingredients will find their wallets stretch a bit farther. The total cost in 2016 for five baking staples—eggs, milk, margarine, sugar, and flour—was down from 2015. A 5-pound bag of flour, 4-pound bag of sugar, gallon of whole milk, pound of margarine, and a carton of eggs would have cost $13.30 in October of 2015 compared to $11.65 in October of 2016—a savings of $1.65. Consumers may notice the biggest savings when they reach into the refrigerated cooler for eggs. Egg prices have been halved, declining year-over-year by $1.42 per dozen as the egg industry recovers from last year’s Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak. Price changes for the other categories are smaller and vary depending on the ingredient. Milk, sugar, and margarine cost less this year, while a 5-pound bag of flour cost 6 cents more than last year. More information on retail food prices and forecasted inflation can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated November 23, 2016.

Grocery store prices lower in the third quarter of 2016 from a year ago

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The food-at-home Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the third quarter of 2016 was 1.9 percent lower than the food-at-home CPI for the third quarter of 2015. Grocery store prices decreased, on average, across the board—with the exception of fresh fruits, which rose 2 percent. Egg prices saw the largest decrease, falling 35 percent, reflecting the recovery in the industry after the supply shock caused by late 2014 to June 2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak. Beef and veal, dairy products, pork, and poultry also posted large decreases compared to third quarter 2015, reflecting larger supplies of cattle, raw milk, hogs, and broilers. In addition to increases in domestic supplies, lower oil and energy prices helped hold down retail food price inflation, while a strong U.S. dollar lowered costs for imported foods and decreased demand for U.S. exports, placing further downward pressure on U.S. retail food prices. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials chart collection. More information on retail food prices and forecasted inflation can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated November 23, 2016.

U.S. egg prices continue to adjust following the 2015 HPAI outbreak

Monday, August 29, 2016

Wholesale prices for table eggs are typically variable, reflecting changes in supply, demand, as well as seasonal patterns. The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak that affected U.S. poultry farms between December of 2014 and June of 2015 led to a significant reduction in the supply of eggs, and a corresponding spike in prices. As the outbreak intensified in the spring of 2015, the price of a dozen “grade A” large eggs in the New York market increased from $1.29 in April to $2.61 in August. In the two years prior to the outbreak, the average price of a dozen eggs in this market was $1.33. Prices remained elevated through the remainder of 2015 as producers worked to rebuild capacity. As production returned to pre-outbreak levels in early 2016, prices fell sharply to a low of $0.63 per dozen in May 2016, the lowest price since July 2006, before increasing modestly in June and July. This chart is based on data found in the ERS Livestock and Meat Domestic Data.

At least 48 percent of U.S. broilers were fed antibiotics only for disease-treatment purposes

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Livestock farmers use antibiotics to treat, control, and prevent disease, and also for production purposes, such as increasing growth and feed efficiency. A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiative seeks to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics for production purposes. In the 2011 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) on broilers (the most recent year available), producers were asked whether they raised their broilers without antibiotics in their feed or water unless the birds were sick, which implies not using antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention. In 2011, growers reported that about half of birds (48 percent) were only given antibiotics for disease treatment. This response also accounts for 48 percent of operations and 48 percent of production (by live weight). Approximately a third (32 percent) of operators stated that they did not know if they provided antibiotics via feed or water for purposes other than disease treatment; this means the proportion of reporting operations that only supplied antibiotics for disease-treatment purposes could be as high as 80 percent. Contracted growers (accounting for 96 percent of broiler production) may not know if antibiotics are in the feed provided by the company for whom they raise broilers. These statistics suggest that in 2011, between 20 and 52 percent of birds were given antibiotics for reasons other than disease treatment. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Restrictions on Antibiotic Use for Production Purposes in U.S. Livestock Industries Likely To Have Small Effects on Prices and Quantities,” November 2015.

Retail egg prices rose 21 percent in third quarter 2015

Monday, February 8, 2016

Egg prices are among the most volatile in the grocery store. Unlike many other retail foods, shell eggs have a limited shelf life—they cannot be frozen or canned. If demand increases or supplies fall, there is limited inventory to draw upon and retail prices may rise. While some price fluctuations are expected due to seasonal demand for eggs throughout the year, there have been some above-average price increases over the past 16 years, mainly due to disease outbreaks affecting poultry or surges in feed prices. The most recent upswing in retail egg prices was largely due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which affected table-egg-laying flocks, primarily in the Midwest. To contain the outbreak, which ran from late 2014 to June 2015, producers destroyed about 33 million hens (roughly 11 percent of U.S. egg-laying hens). Retail egg prices rose 20.9 percent in the third quarter of 2015, and egg prices in September 2015, were 36.2 percent higher than in September 2014. As the industry recovers from the outbreak, retail egg prices have begun to adjust, falling 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. This chart appears in “Retail Egg Price Volatility in 2015 Reflects Farm Conditions” in the February 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Chicken's popularity makes it the most consumed U.S. meat

Monday, January 25, 2016

In 2013, 57.7 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 53.6 pounds of beef and 43.4 pounds of pork, according to ERS’s food availability data. From 1909 to the early 1940s, chicken availability had been around 10 pounds per person a year, while yearly per-person beef and pork availability had ranged from between 30 and 50 pounds. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, as innovations in breeding, mass production, and processing made chicken more plentiful, affordable, and convenient for the dining-out market and for cooking at home. By 1996, chicken had overtaken pork as the second-most-consumed meat, and in 2010, chicken overtook beef for the No. 1 spot. Beef availability rose during the second half of the last century, peaking at 88.8 pounds per capita in 1976. Pork availability, which had fallen in 2010 and 2011, was up in 2012 and again in 2013. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.

U.S. poultry and eggs output has grown more rapidly than dairy and meat animals

Friday, October 23, 2015

Total U.S. livestock output grew 130 percent from 1948 to 2011, with the poultry and eggs subcategory growing much faster than meat animals (including cattle, hogs, and lamb) and dairy products. In 2011, the real value of total poultry and egg production was more than seven times its level in 1948, with an average annual growth rate exceeding 3 percent. The rapid growth of poultry production is due largely to changes in technology—advances in genetics, feed formulations, housing, and practices—and increased consumer demand. Retail prices of poultry fell in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, relative to beef and pork prices, leading to expanded poultry consumption in that period. Increased domestic consumption and exports were also driven by consumer response to an expanding range of new poultry products, as the industry moved away from a reliance on whole birds and produc­tion shifted to cut-up parts and processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets/tenders, and chicken sausages. This chart is found in the ERS report, Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers, July 2015.

Americans consumed 19 pounds of eggs per person in 2012

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

According to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data, U.S. consumption of eggs fell during the 1970s and 1980s from 24 pounds per person in 1971 to 18.2 pounds in 1990. Egg consumption stayed fairly flat before rising some in the late 1990s. Concerns over cholesterol in eggs (related to heart disease), and an increase in fast food restaurants offering non-egg breakfast items such as yogurt, fruit salads, oatmeal, etc., likely influenced the decline. Roughly 70 percent of the 19 pounds of eggs per person (the equivalent of 144 eggs) that Americans consumed in 2012 were shell eggs, and 30 percent were processed egg products, where eggs have been removed from the shell, pasteurized, and then packaged in liquid, frozen, or dried form. Though some processed products are available in grocery stores, many processed egg products are used by food manufacturing and foodservice companies. On a daily basis, Americans consumed an average of 0.8 ounces of eggs per day in 2012, compared to 2.0 ounces of chicken, the most consumed protein in the meat, fish, eggs, and nuts group. In 2012, Americans consumed 529 daily calories per person from the meat, fish, eggs, and nuts group, with 34 calories coming from egg consumption. The data for this chart come from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

New cage size regulations contribute to widening egg price gap

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Over the last 2 months of 2014, egg prices in most markets experienced a brief and very sharp price spike. Egg prices traditionally are strong in the fourth quarter, but the spike in 2014 was larger than usual, considering that table egg production increased in November 2014. The high prices nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2014 are likely the result of both strong exports of table eggs to Mexico in November and uncertainties about the future of the table egg market in California due to new cage size regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2015. In the short term, the new regulations have widened the price difference between the California market and other parts of the United States. At the end of October 2014, the difference between the wholesale prices of Grade A large eggs in the Southern California market and the New York City market was around 12 cents per dozen. Prices in Southern California rose to average $2.68 per dozen by the middle of December. Like in other markets, prices then began to decline, but by the beginning of 2015 had only fallen to around $2.28 per dozen, resulting in a price differential between the Southern California market and the New York City market of over $1.00 per dozen. This chart is based on information from the report, Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook: January 2015.

Most U.S. broiler operations use some form of sanitation/biosecurity practice

Monday, January 26, 2015

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service recently conducted the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of the U.S. broiler chicken industry. Results indicate that several sanitation and biosecurity practices were widespread on broiler operations in the United States in 2011. Almost all operations used practices to control rodent and wild bird access to facilities, and almost all rotated flocks on an all-in, all-out basis, aimed at limiting the spread of pathogens and disease among animals. Nearly half of broiler operations reported that they follow the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) or a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan, which are designed to improve animal health, food safety, and food quality. One-fifth of operations fully cleaned out and sanitized their houses after each flock removal. USDA may provide support for incineration and composting facilities, as well as litter management practices, through payments made under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). ARMS results find that seven percent of contract growers received EQIP payments related to broiler production in 2011. This chart is found in the ERS/NASS report, 2011 ARMS - Broiler Industry Highlights.

EU sanitary and phytosanitary measures limit imports of U.S. poultry

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The European Union (EU) is one of the world’s leading producers, consumers, and traders of broiler (young chicken) meat, but its sanitary and phytosanitary policies limit imports of U.S. broiler meat. All broiler meat imported by the EU is required to be from sources that do not use pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs), such as chlorine wash, in their production. PRTs are approved for use in the United States and are used by virtually all U.S. processors. Because of this restriction, even the 13 most recent EU member states—including Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Bulgaria—halted their imports of U.S. broiler meat after they joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. U.S. broiler exports to the EU are also potentially restricted by the EU’s system of tariff rate quotas (TRQs), but the United States does not currently fill its existing quota because of the EU PRT restriction. The United States receives an exclusive TRQ of 16,665 metric tons, which can be applied to fresh and frozen broiler and turkey meat in whole-bird or parts form. The EU imported 670,000 metric tons of broiler meat in 2013, with 93 percent of those imports supplied by Brazil and Thailand. Find this chart and additional analysis in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Tariff-Rate Quotas for U.S. Meat Exports to the European Union.

Retailers' margins for turkey decline during Thanksgiving season

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wholesale and retail prices of whole turkeys tend to react differently to the surge in demand that occurs during the Thanksgiving season. Wholesale prices for whole turkeys typically reach their annual highs as demand increases during the Thanksgiving season, and USDA weekly price data indicate that wholesale prices are presently at a yearly high of just under $1.20/lb. Estimates for a 1.2-percent decline in 2014 turkey production and relatively low stocks of whole birds in cold storage again indicate upward pressure on wholesale prices this holiday season. However, wholesale and retail prices of turkey tend to converge during the Thanksgiving season, when retail turkey prices are commonly near annual lows. The percentage markup between wholesale and retail prices tends to shrink to an annual low point during November. The average wholesale-to-retail markup between January 2010 and September 2014 was 60 percent, while the average November markup over the same period was 42 percent. Find additional information and analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: November 2014 and Turkey Sector: Background & Statistics.

Grocery store prices for beef, pork, and eggs are up as U.S. supplies decrease

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Retail food-at-home prices in the second quarter of 2014 were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago, as most at-home food categories increased in price. Retail beef and veal prices were up 10.8 percent as the supply of beef is strained by historically low herd sizes. Over the same time period, pork prices increased 11.2 percent, partially the result of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which has reduced litter sizes and increased piglet mortality. Egg prices are also up, in part due to increasing exports and a strong domestic demand for eggs and egg products. The increases in beef and veal, pork, and egg prices are the largest year-over-year increases since the fourth quarter of 2011. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 10, 2014. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can also be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Contract broiler growers have higher median and greater range of household incomes

Thursday, August 14, 2014

For farmers, household income combines the income that the household receives from off-farm activities with the income that the household receives from the farm business, net of expenses and payments to other stakeholders in the business. Households that raise broilers have higher median incomes than other farm households, and other U.S. households. In 2011, the median income among all U.S. households was $50,504, while the median income among farm households was $57,050. The median for contract broiler growers was higher, at $68,455. However, median income doesn’t tell the whole story; the range of household incomes earned by broiler growers is also wider than other groups, even though contract growers are a much more demographically homogeneous than both the U.S. population and the overall farm population. The wider range reflects, in part, the financial risks associated with contract broiler production. Grower costs can vary widely, and flat annual broiler production in recent years has increased the risk that growers will get fewer chicks placed, or that their contracts won’t be renewed. This chart is found in the August 2014 Amber Waves feature, “Financial Risks and Incomes in Contract Broiler Production.”

Processed products dominate U.S. broiler production

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In the early 1960s, over 80 percent of broiler production was marketed as whole birds, and only 2 percent as further processed products. By 2011, only 12 percent of production was marketed as whole birds, as production shifted to cut-up parts (42 percent of production) and to further processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets and tenders, and chicken sausages (46 percent of production). The shift to cut-up and processed products spurred growth in demand for chicken, which in turn elicited production increases. Different products come from birds of different sizes, and changes in demand composition have shifted production toward larger birds for processed products. Smaller broilers are usually marketed bone-in (whole or cut into parts) to the fast-food and foodservice sectors, while intermediate sizes are normally marketed to retail groceries in tray-pack or bagged forms. The largest birds can be sold whole as roasters but are also marketed deboned and processed into parts and value-added products. Growing and processing birds of such widely varying sizes requires tight coordination between the hatchery, grow-out, slaughter, and processing stages. This chart is found in the ERS report, Technology, Organization, and Financial Performance in U.S. Broiler Production, EIB-126, June 2014.

U.S. broiler production has leveled off after decades of rapid growth

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Between 1960 and 1995, annual broiler slaughter in the United States grew from 1.5 to 7.4 billion birds—4.6 percent per year, on average. With birds also getting larger—from an average of 3.35 pounds to 4.66—total live-weight production grew at an average rate of 5.6 percent per year. While average weights continued to grow steadily after 1995, growth in annual slaughter slowed sharply and then fell in 2009 and again in 2012. Total live-weight production reached 49.8 billion pounds in 2008, but did not exceed that figure until 2013. In all, live-weight production grew by just 1.3 percent per year between 2003 and 2013, one-fourth of the 1960-1995 growth rate. High produc­tion growth in earlier decades—and slowing growth later—reflected movements in demand for chicken meat. The cessation of broiler industry growth, due to slowing growth in population, per capita consumption of chicken, and exports, places new financial pressures on broiler producers and new stresses on industry organization. This chart is found in Technology, Organization, and Financial Performance in U.S. Broiler Production, EIB-126, June 2014.

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