How Poultry Farmers Should Approach the Recent Spike in Egg Prices
In the mid-1980s, the scourge of the H5N2 Avian Influenza devastated Lancaster County’s poultry industry.
The virus was contained, but not before doing at upwards of $350 million worth of damage (more than $800 million in today’s dollars).
Late last year, a new highly pathogenic avian flu virus struck the poultry industry again. This time, however, the damage was contained to the Pacific, Central and Mississippi migratory flyways, and so far, the current outbreak has not reached any bordering states. The culling of poultry in those states has driven the price of eggs up significantly across the country and in Lancaster County.
For local egg farmers, the outbreak has given them an unexpected spike in revenue. What to do with this extra income is a common question. While many might choose to pay down debts or invest in new equipment, another alternative might be to keep it in the bank.
When the virus struck Lancaster County all those years ago, not only did it wipe out a large percentage of the local egg-producing industry, it raised egg prices significantly. That spike was short-lived, however. Two years after the outbreak was eliminated, the price of eggs sharply declined, falling below the cost of production.
Today, farmers not only have to figure out how best to handle price increases, they also have to plan for the next price fall. Through it all, they must continue to maintain operations and put safety measures in place to prevent contamination. It only takes one unwitting visitor who neglects to wear foot coverings to infect an entire flock and create an epidemic.
As of 2012, Lancaster County had the largest population of laying hens in the nation, with more than 10 million birds on more than 1,500 farms. The impact of Pennsylvania’s poultry industry on the state economy is estimated at $13 billion, for which Lancaster County makes up an estimated 37 percent.
Eggs are important to Lancaster County. So, when the price of eggs spikes upward, local farmers would do well to maintain a cautious eye toward the future. Although it’s often impossible to predict when prices will stabilize or fluctuate wildly again, developing a plan to deal with the market uncertainty is what Simon Lever does best.
If the price of eggs has affected your farm or operation, give us a call today to discuss a plan. Let’s start the conversation.
By Kurtis Groff,