Monday, July 27, 2015

Egg prices and other fabulously exciting information

On facebook, last Friday, I mentioned finding eggs on sale again this week, and reading the USDA weekly report on wholesale egg supply and pricing. This prompted other thoughts and queries (of course, right? Doesn't everyone carry on these odd egg conversations in their heads?).

So, back in April, I went to plan my Easter egg stock-up. I went back through my grocery journals and found that eggs typically went on sale again in July. I think I mentioned this in a blog post about stocking up on eggs. At the pre-Easter egg sales, I stocked up on enough eggs to get through till another egg sale, in July. I bought 20-some dozen eggs in April. I froze about 8 dozen, and used the rest of them as fresh eggs.

Was I ever right on eggs going on sale again in July! I surprised even myself, as I'd never formally made this connection before. Now all this could change by next year. You know how that is, you just get something figured out and it all changes!

Anyway, 2 weeks in a row, medium eggs were on sale locally for 99 cents/dozen. Which given how expensive eggs have become in the last 2 months, 99 cents for medium eggs is pretty fab.

I went online, did some reading at the USDA website and found out this -- historically (over last several years) wholesale egg prices are relatively low in July. Wholesale prices also dip in May, but I didn't notice any particular retail activity with eggs in our markets. Wholesale egg prices historically go up a small amount in August, then come down and remain steady for September, October, November. They then peak in December, again, dropping back down in late January. Visit this page, for this information: egg-cite.com.

There remains one complication for this year's egg inventory, the virus which infected US chicken flocks (which prompted the current shortage of eggs, and hence rising egg retail prices). There is some worry that wild bird migrations in fall could lead to new infection in domestic chickens. All of this could prompt reduced flocks again and higher eggs prices. But we don't know on that, and right now, the USDA is working with poultry producers towards minimizing any spread of disease. Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak.

Whether or not the Avian flu returns with the wild, migrating birds to a significant degree, I am taking my own precautions, with regards to our family's supply of eggs. What I do know is that historically, I have an opportunity to stock up on eggs in summer through fall. And I will need to have a supply of eggs for cooking and baking for the November and December holidays (when egg prices might be high again).

Tracking prices in my area and stocking up

My expectation/hope is to find large eggs around $1.50 to $1.89/dozen as a loss-leader sale item, likely with limits on purchase amounts, within the next 3 months. That $1.50 to $1.89 per dozen would put a loss-leader at 50-80% higher for LL pricing than previous years. But based on current mid-west wholesale prices on eggs, this is about what I feel I can expect. In the PNW, there are a few grocery stores who use eggs as a semi-regular loss-leader. I'll be watching the ads for those stores.

As well, our Cash & Carry's prices tend to reflect what is going on in the wholesale market. This can give me an idea as to whether a store's front-page, advertised price is a good one or not. Currently, C & C has bulk large eggs (a case of 15 dozen) for $2.85/dz. This isn't a sale price, but their "regular" price. Compare this to Walgreen's ad this week. Walgreen's has large eggs for $3.49/dz. So, for me, I can see that Walgreen's price isn't my "best".

In April, I determined that 22 dozen eggs was about a 5 month supply for our family, with no restrictions on using eggs. I could stretch that to 6 months or so, if I'm more careful with egg use. It's now the end of July. If I want enough eggs to get our family through Christmas and New Years, and into January, I'll need about 25 dozen eggs, between now and January. I'll freeze as many as I can, for those last 3 months-worth. The rest will keep, refrigerated, for a month to 6 weeks past the sell-by date.

This past time, with freezing eggs, I found a method/quantity that works well for me. It's easy, and minimizes my work. I run the eggs through the blender, with the salt or sugar needed to stabilize the yolks. Then I pour into half-pint and pint-size containers and freeze.

When I needed eggs, I would thaw a container, and keep in the fridge. As I needed each egg, I'd measure out 1/4 cup for each large egg called-for in a recipe. The thawed eggs kept for about 3 or 4 days in the fridge. If on the last day of what I felt they would still be "good", I still had 3 or 4 eggs worth of blended egg left, I simply planned that night's dinner around the remaining eggs, like a quiche or frittata.

Freezing eggs in larger containers than a single egg simplified the freezing step. (My other method of freezing eggs is one at a time in a muffin tin. But with a muffin tin, I have to remove the frozen eggs from the tin and put in bags. Not a huge deal, but enough extra work to make the job of freezing the eggs sound like more work.)

About the future of egg prices

I suspect that we will ultimately pay higher prices for eggs, even after flocks have been restored. The current method of commercial poultry production leaves our domestic poultry vulnerable to viral infections and widespread disease. Backyard chickens are less vulnerable to disease, as they frequently are allowed to roam and see more hours of sunlight. Backyards are generally warmer and drier for the chickens. The Avian flu virus doesn't spread as well in warm and dry climates. 

Commercial poultry producers will need to make changes to their methods of operation, if they want to avoid mass-euthanasia of their flocks. And that will lead to higher costs for the producers, and higher retail prices for the eggs. I think that's just something we'll need to come to terms with, as consumers.


Just thought I'd share this information with you. Because I know you're just riveted with all of this egg-information! LOL! But really, it could be helpful to someone reading, who wants to plan their grocery spending, as I do.


And an FYI, if you're in the southern hemisphere, if you reverse the calendar for months when egg inventory is high/low, I would assume that wholesale egg prices would drop in January for you. Anyone in Australia, New Zealand, or any other country south of the equator -- have you noticed lower prices on eggs at particular times of the year?


13 comments:

  1. Hi Lili,

    thank you very much for this information, especially the method that you now use for freezing eggs. I think that is brilliant, and I will be planning to implement that in my kitchen too. It just makes good sense.
    Jayne

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    1. Hi Jayne,
      I have no idea why I was working so hard to freeze each individual egg, before. I just had it stuck in my mind that when you use fresh eggs, you only crack one open at a time, so I froze them singly, too. Freezing them in 3s,4s, 5s or even 6s just works so much better for me. I can usually go through several eggs in 2 or 3 days time.

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  2. Interesting to see your observations. We have been buying eggs from the same farmer we get our beef from and see no fluctuations, probably because the avian virus hasn't affected their small set-up. But, we missed our chickens so got new ones in May, and some ducks in July. The pullets started laying about two weeks ago and we're egg-cited for that, lol. :) I do know from our past five years plus of chicken keeping, that we are typically overrun with eggs in spring and fall, and run low when they lay less in summer and winter. So I do the same as you and freeze some for those lulls to keep from having to buy many/any.

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    1. Hi Cat,
      I thought I read the Avian flu hit hardest in the south and on the east coast, s maybe your area was spared some of the worst of it. But also, as a small set-up where you were getting your eggs, maybe their practices were "healthier" for the chickens.

      I hope you're enjoying having your new chickens!

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  3. I never cease to be amazed at your thorough research. Now, do you have an inside track as to the story behind butter's rise in cost? I stocked up at Christmas when butter was on sale but my stock is dwindling fast and butter prices are through the roof now here in central Illinois. Ughh!

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    1. Hi Linda,
      I past years, this has been that time of year that I began to get a bit panicky about not having much butter, as my stock-up supplies from Christmas and Easter would be dwindling. So I understand what you're feeling. Those regular prices on butter can be awful.

      So, for me, I use our Cash & Carry to get an idea of what wholesale prices really are, as they are a wholesaler. Their prices more closely follow the wholesale market prices than supermarkets.

      The 4 sticks to pound packages are currently selling for $3.39/lb, which sounds kind of high. What I buy is what they call "butter prints". 1 pound is wrapped in a single sheet of printed waxed paper, no individual sticks. Butter prints are currently on sale for $2.19/lb, about 40 cents more per pound than what I often see them on sale for at C & C (regular price on butter prints at C & C is currently $2.35/lb).

      The US wholesale price on butter has remained just under the $2 mark for the last 10 weeks. It's up about 45 cents per pound since January of this year. I haven't read any of the forecasts for future prices on butter, yet. Just looked at a table (http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/dywabutter_cme.pdf).
      If you go to that table, you'll see that butter prices have not had a predictable pattern from year to year for the last several years. I think that has been due to our volatile weather patterns of recent years, affecting the feed crops.

      I think your best bet with regards to buying butter will be an odd loss-leader sale, in the next couple of months. When you find such a sale, do your best to stock up enough to get till November/ December holiday baking loss-leader sales.

      In the meantime, you could use oil for as much of your baking as possible. Vegetable oil prices have been much better this year over previous years. (I even use oil in making yeast bread.) And for table use, you could make soft butter, blending vegetable oil with butter. That's what I've done in the past when my butter supplies looked like they weren't going to last until the next predictable loss-leader sale.

      Here's where I posted proportions that I use for making soft butter:
      http://www.creativesavv.com/2014/02/making-soft-butter.html

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  4. Always interesting to see you crunch the numbers. Do you ever use powdered eggs? I see several "stockers" talk about having them on hand.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      every so often I price powdered eggs, as well as the liquid eggs that you buy in cartons. Powdered eggs are still more expensive for me than whole eggs. But I can totally see why some people would find them very useful. If you live someplace where eggs are much more expensive, then the powdered ones would be a good deal. And if you live someplace remote, with little shopping opportunities, particularly in winter, then powdered eggs would be the way to keep a supply.

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  5. Recently our local Target had eggs on sale for $1.99 a dozen. I bought 3 dozen, where as before reading your blog I might not have bought so many and just go without eggs if the price went up. After years of avoiding high cholesterol foods, I am conditioned to make every excuse not to make egg dishes so often, except when we have to use it up quickly...though this time I will choose to freeze it.

    YHF

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    1. Hi YHF,
      that's a remarkable deal for where you live. Didn't you pay something like $5/dozen a couple of months ago? Those eggs will keep beyond the sell-by date, just FYI. One of the gov safety websites even says so. The sell-by date is more for freshness and not safety. Then freeze whatever you don't want to "rush through" just to use them up, so you'll have some for baking when you need them.

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    2. You've got excellent memory, no wonder you are able to research and process so much information. It was Costco that sold the 18 carton eggs for about $5.50. As far as Target's sale, I think it was a loss leader to get us in the store because egg prices are otherwise over $3 a dozen. I was prepared to ask for a raincheck if the store was out of eggs, but they were very well stocked. It seemed like nobody else had any eggs in their wagon, so I felt pretty silly getting worked up about an egg sale lol

      YHF

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    3. Thanks for the information about using eggs well past the sell date. I plan to do exactly what you suggest, freeze in 3-4 egg batches and use them sparingly. It will be my first time ever freezing eggs. How exciting!!

      YHF

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    4. Hi HYF,
      I guess not too many people seemed excited about the egg loss-leader at Target because it's summer, and no real occasion to either bake a lot or have hot breakfasts daily? Just a guess. But lucky for you that they did have that sale.

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