Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)—a disease infecting birds and poultry—struck egg-laying hens throughout 2022. As a result of recurrent outbreaks, U.S. egg inventories were 29% lower in the final week of December 2022 than at the beginning of the year. By the end of December, more than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost to the disease itself or to depopulation since the outbreak began in February 2022.
Losses were spread across two waves: from February to June (30.7 million hens) and from September to December (12.6 million hens). On constrained supplies, wholesale egg prices (the prices retailers pay to producers) were elevated throughout the year. The HPAI recurrences in the fall further constrained egg inventories that had not recovered from the spring wave. Moreover, the latest outbreak wave came at a point when the industry seasonally adjusts the egg-laying flocks to meet the increasing demand for eggs associated with the winter holiday season.