Just off Downtown DeLand’s main drag, on East Church Street, is Buttercup Bakery, a bakery and coffee shop. To make the many baked goods offered at Buttercup — from the Kentucky Butter Cake to the brownies — the bakery uses 15 dozen eggs a week, and sometimes more.
No matter how expensive eggs are, the bakery has to buy them. There aren’t many substitutes.
Three years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, before the supply-chain interruptions and the myriad other changes to our lives, 15 dozen eggs cost the bakery, on average, $21.
“Now it’s fluctuating,” owner Audrey Cox told The Beacon Jan. 17. “Sixty to $70 for 15 dozen.”
But that’s right now. The price could change again.
“Eggs are like the stock market,” Cox said.
While the price change is affecting bulk orders made by bakeries and other restaurants, it also affects the average household grocery budget, too.
“I used to take deviled eggs to a potluck, but not at these prices,” DeLandite Helen Hoyt posted on social media.
Not only West Volusians are feeling the egg-stra cost. Across the state and the country, egg prices are up.
According to a study by grocery-delivery service Instacart, Florida currently ranks as the second-most-expensive state in the U.S. in which to buy eggs, behind only Hawaii. By analyzing purchases made through its service in December 2022, Instacart found that Floridians were paying, on average, $6.36 for a dozen eggs. That’s a 57-percent increase from December 2021 to December 2022.
Nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of eggs jumped from $1.93 a dozen in January 2022 to $4.25 in December 2022.
What’s driving the costs? It’s a domino effect of reasons, but one is avian influenza.
While it’s not uncommon for a strain of avian flu to spread in bird populations now and again, a new strain that made its way to the United States last year has been wreaking havoc on bird populations.
“This H5N1 strain that we are seeing now developed over time from a group of highly pathogenic strains, and is a newly introduced virus into the United States,” Carly Jones, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told The Beacon. “We normally have low-pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds here, but this strain is different because it is highly pathogenic.”
A strain’s pathogenicity refers to its ability to cause disease.
Jones estimated that this highly communicable strain of bird flu has killed tens of thousands of native birds in Florida over the past year.
Another piece of the puzzle of why eggs are so expensive is the rising cost of bird feed. Eggs are more costly, because chicken feed costs more.
According to an April 2022 article by Reuters, Ukraine is a global exporter of grains, including the grains that go into chicken feed. The ongoing war in response to Russia’s invasion of the country has spiked grain prices.
There’s also the potential of price gouging, according to U.S. farm group Farm Action. According to CNBC, the organization sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission alleging that major egg companies were colluding to keep prices high.
And, gas prices are another factor. When grain farmers have to pay more for diesel fuel to power their equipment, Greg Molinari told The Beacon, those costs are passed on to consumers.
Molinari owns DeLand-based Greg’s Feed & Farm Supply. He’s seen the cost of chicken feed increase dramatically since last year. But, like the wholesale price of eggs, the price of feed goes up and down.
“You really gotta follow every week,” Molinari said. “It ain’t like it used to be when you put your price up and it’s the same. It can change drastically in one week.”
It’s been that way since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but things have gotten especially bad recently. The feed-store owner has seen it affect his bottom line, too.
“A lot of the backyard farm people, they’re just not finding it feasible to pay for the feed,” Molinari said.
One person with a backyard farm is Kimmy Rogowski, who lives near Lake Helen with her husband and children. They initially got chickens as an activity to share with their kids, but it has blossomed into a hobby, and maybe even a source of some cash for the family.
Ever since the cost of eggs began creeping up, Rognowski said, she’s had more and more people asking about eggs.
While it was not initially their intention to sell eggs, the Rognowskis are planning to start doing so later this year. It will help the family pay for the feed.
“The reality that many people don’t understand is having chickens is expensive!” Rognowski said. “The benefit is knowing where our eggs come from.”
To actually make money, she said, they would probably have to charge $10-$12 per dozen, especially with the elevated cost of feed.
When will costs come down? It’s unclear for now, but in the meantime, many are still frustrated about such high costs for a food that most of us consider a staple.
“It’s pretty expensive!” DeLandite Esmerelda Padilla said on Facebook. “But I still gotta buy them! Although for Easter we may be painting potatoes, not eggs.”