Easter 2022 is just days away, and the price of eggs is skyrocketing thanks to inflation, supply chain issues, and now a highly-contagious avian or bird flu.
The bird flu outbreak has killed tens of millions of birds just in the last few months and it’s part of the reason for such a big increase in the price of eggs.
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The price spike is hitting bakeries especially hard, and the days leading up to Easter are some of the busiest of the year for pastry, cookie, and other sweets sales.
“This is not our first rodeo with avian flu. Unfortunately, it’s following a pandemic and we’ve already had shortages,” said Retail Bakers of America Board President Patti Stobaugh.
This is the worst outbreak of the avian flu since 2015 when more than 50 million birds either died or had to be killed to avoid further spread. President of the National Association of Egg Farmers Ken Klippen says it’s a sickly feeling for farmers to see an outbreak happening again.
“We just kind of shook our heads and said ‘okay, here it is. Let’s brace for this now, cause it’s coming,” said Klippen.
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US bakers also remember the 2015 avian flu outbreak well and how much it spiked egg prices, and it even forced one St. Louis Italian bakery to change its menu.
“A pignolata is this little bitty pastry ball, and it takes 36 eggs to make one dough. Well, my father found out how much the eggs were from 69 cents a dozen to a dollar 35 cents a dozen…He told everybody ‘that’s the last year we’re making pignolata.'” said Angelina Vitale, owner of Vitale’s Bakery on The Hill in St. Louis
Vitale’s Bakery has been in St. Louis for four generations. Vitale says there have been tough times, but not like this.
“Every week there’s an increase of one thing or another,” said Vitale.
From the end of March to the first of April, the wholesale cost for a carton of eggs in the Midwest jumped 60%, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
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“People are going to be paying more for eggs, there’s just no way to get around it. You decrease supplies, there’s an increased cost of production, the result is consumers will foot some of that expense,” said Klippen.
Vitale says the bakery’s vendor warned her the high egg prices will likely continue. Now, the customers have to help cover the cost.
“Which is very hard because they’re not going to get as much as they once did before. If a person came in and ordered a lot of pastries, now they’re going to get half the pastries because the price is so high. It’s going to be very hard for our business to stay in operation, very hard.” said Vitale.
Farmers are hoping warmer weather will slow down the bird flu. But for now, when you go to buy some treats for an easter celebration, expect fewer options at some bakeries and a higher bill to go with it.