The soaring price of eggs grabbed the attention of frugal restaurant owners when prices begin escalating early last year. But in recent months ordinary consumers started complaining about the price of eggs outpacing a gallon of gas. The average cost of a dozen eggs in North Carolina was $1.72 in 2021, today prices hover around $6. Why?

Prices give interesting context to our economy. Most people believe prices restrict consumers from enjoying the same quality of life as their peers. The price of goods and services can undoubtedly have a chilling effect on consumers purchasing decisions, but prices also provide order to an economy that could easily spiral out of control with excessive demand.

Prices simply represent the underlying truth that goods and services don’t exist abundantly enough for everyone to have them. Take into consideration the cost to purchase a house on Wrightsville Beach, very expensive, but the price underscores the reality there is not enough beachfront property for everyone in the country to live there.

A confluence of factors appear to be driving the cost of eggs substantially higher — consumer demand, inflation, supply-chain disruptions, and a highly contagious avian flu.

Americans eat a lot of eggs — an average of 278 per person, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Maintaining supply for such insatiable demand requires a sufficient number of hens that lay them. Farmers must feed those hens grains like corn, oats, and barley. Inflation is having a broad and long-term impact on all goods, including poultry feed. As input-expenses increase, farmers must offset those higher costs by raising wholesale prices.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine last year exacerbated the issue because those countries are key suppliers of the world’s wheat and grains. Both exports have been severely restricted. driving up prices for poultry farmers. Higher energy costs as a result of the conflict have created additional challenges for the same farmers to operate their farms and transport their harvest.

Roughly 44 million egg-laying hens died last year when a highly contagious avian influenza broke out at poultry farms. The virus can be disastrous for any farmer, not just because it is deadly, but often farmers are forced to kill other healthy birds to prevent transmission. The aftermath can leave farms reeling as they focus on clearing infected flocks, cleaning the facilities, and waiting on newly recruited hens to grow and start producing.

The avian flu has impacted farms in North Carolina too. According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, flocks have tested positive for the fatal virus in Durham, Union, Onslow, Wake, Johnston, and Wayne counties.

Despite sky-high prices eggs still remain the most affordable source of protein available. Consumers have not pulled back on purchases. But its worth noting larger families with less disposable income will feel the pressure.

Assume a family of four that consumes two dozen eggs weekly are spending an additional $40 monthly to get their egg fix. Undoubtedly other inflationary household expenses such as rent, gas, and utilities combined with higher food costs is creating hard choices for low income families.

Growing up in East Winston, my grandparents had an urban farm, we raised chickens, grew vegetables, and harvested peaches from a tree that we planted. We relied solely on those hens for eggs and the only time fried chicken was on the menu was when my grandmother decided to slaughter a chicken.

Some people advocate for more backyard farming to address food shortages and higher prices. But due to local government policy that now regulates the practice, it may cost a family around $500 annually to support one chicken. Compare that number to around $150-$300 to buy eggs.

No quick fix will bring down the cost of eggs immediately. Similarly to how farmers gather eggs, we just have to wait and see.