At the beginning of 2015, Proposition 2 came into effect into California requiring egg laying hens to have more space for all egg products sold there.
Looking at January 2015 to April 2016, egg prices in California are up 30 percent before retail cost at 50 cents a dozen compared to the rest of Northwest U.S. That’s after stabilizing. At one point it was up $1.50.
But while that looked to be the big worry of eggs, just a year ago, the U.S. faced the worst animal health disaster ever: the Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak. Where 35 million layers were depopulated, including 40 percent of the Iowa egg industry.
So, while the new egg law made California’s egg prices go up, so did bird flu.
But the U.S. has recovered since then, it’s about six million layers short of what there was a year ago. Most of that growth was outside Iowa.
Maro Ibarburu associate scientist of the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University says, “The price of eggs went very high after the outbreak because of the shortage and now have been decreasing a lot, and now we’re at prices that are the lowest since 2006.”
Ibarburu says the U.S. is importing more eggs. Exports are down because of the AI outbreak.
Iowa exports about 9.5 percent of its egg production to California or about a third of California’s egg imports. Iowa was one of the hardest hit by bird flu.
Hongwei Xin, director of the Egg Industry Center, says the layer population here has rebounded, “As of today, we have about 48 million laying hens and we lost about 25 million during the AI outbreak. So, at the high point, our state had about 59 million and so we’re about 10 to 11 million birds short and that full repopulation will probably take until early next year.”
Xin says they’ve learned a lot from the bird flu and research is ongoing at Iowa State to figure out how to prevent a future outbreak.