Did Bill Gates Foresee The Egg-tastrophe? Prices Soar As Other Goods Are Plummeting

Zinger Key Points
  • A highly deadly strain of avian flu is putting pressure on egg prices.
  • Is it time for American households to start raising hens in their backyards?

“I've never wished I had a chicken coop so badly,” Liz Young, head of investment strategy at SoFi SOFI in a tweet.

The digital bank executive echoed a sentiment circling the minds of investors on Thursday morning as egg prices soar, with no sign of coming down.

While the American economy faced decades-high rates of inflation in 2022, consumer prices have come down from their June peak. A new CPI report released Thursday puts December inflation at 6.5%, down from 7.1% in November.

Yet egg prices don’t appear to be catching up with the rest of consumer staples.

Why Egg Prices Are Sizzling: Data from the St. Louis Fed and the USDA shows a major spike in egg prices across 2022, with a trend that continues its upward path into 2023.

Egg prices have reached three times their cost one year ago in many states, according to a report by CNBC News.

The reasons behind the spike are multiple. The egg industry’s supply chain never fully recovered from the disruptions it faced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet an unforgiving outbreak of avian flu is the main culprit behind the recent egg price hike.

The latest outbreak of avian influenza started in February 2022 and has wiped out more than 44 million egg-laying hens, according to the Agriculture Department. By the end of 2020, the U.S. had about 325 million commercial laying hens, according to United Egg Producers.

The virus is extremely lethal. According to the CDC, it kills 90% to 100% of chickens infected within 48 hours.

Put in human terms, a pandemic of that magnitude would have wiped out a population greater than the entire state of California in less than one year.

With less production output, the egg industry needs to raise prices in order to survive, while sustained demand for a product with a struggling supply also puts prices above regular levels.

The highly contagious strain of the avian flu has also affected other commercial bird categories, including turkeys, which brought the average price of Thanksgiving dinner up by 20% in 2022, according to the Farm Bureau.

Surprisingly, the price for chicken meat has not followed the same astronomical path, but actually dropped in recent months. This is because broilers — or chickens raised for their meat rather than their eggs — aren’t as susceptible to the latest bird flu as egg-laying hens.

Egg producer Cal-Maine Foods Inc CALM is down 2.38% year-to-date, trading at $54.17 on Thursday. 

Did Bill Gates See It Coming? Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates went on Reddit on Wednesday for a new “ask me anything” session that sprouted a plethora of articles related to his thoughts on the future of the world and humanity.

Also Read: Wait, Is Bill Gates Working On ChatGPT With Microsoft?

Gates has been bullish on eggs for at least five years. In a 2016 blog post, the magnate made a case for egg production as a way to fight poverty and improve nutrition in malnourished populations.

Gates wrote that, were he in the shoes of the nearly 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, raising egg-producing hens would be a first choice on his mind.

Hens are “easy and inexpensive to take care of" and they’re a good investment, as they reproduce quickly and they produce eggs which are rich in protein and other nutrients.

Gates has made a point to vaccinate chicken before it's too late. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set a goal to “eventually help 30%  of the rural families in sub-Saharan Africa raise improved breeds of vaccinated chickens, up from just 5% now.”

Is it time for American households to start raising hens in their backyards?

Shutterstock image.

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