A dozen large eggs can range in price anywhere from $3.99 to nearly $5, depending on where you're shopping.
The first case of N5N1 avian flu virus in Washington County was confirmed in late March. Credit: Julia Bayly / BDN

Whether you favor your eggs fried, boiled or poached, those golden yolks are looking more like precious metal.

Thanks to a national shortage, some Maine grocery stores are seeing the prices of eggs rise.

It’s just one more in a long list of items to experience scarcity, beginning when COVID-19 struck in 2020 and panic buying emptied toilet paper and bread from store shelves. Two years of supply chain delays are compounded by another disease: bird flu. For Mainers, that means having eggs on the table will get more expensive.  

A sign posted at Shaw’s Supermarket in Dover-Foxcroft on Monday notified customers that prices are increasing due to a national shortage of eggs. Store personnel said they could not comment. Staff at Shaw’s corporate customer service center in Phoenix, Arizona, were unaware of an egg shortage, a representative said Tuesday.  

But bird flu outbreaks have already affected Maine poultry farms. Discovery of the H5N1 avian influenza in Knox County led to the deaths of more than 600 birds in February, and a flock of egg-layers had to be euthanized in Machiasport in late March when state officials diagnosed them with the virus.

Wholesale egg prices were higher than expected in August and September, due partly to the impact of the avian flu, according to a Sept. 26 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Nationally, the poultry industry lost around 36 million hens from February through September from the avian flu. Both demand and retail prices are higher than in previous years because of inflation, said Egg-News.com. Unseasonably high prices are expected to continue through fall and decline as flocks are restocked. 

At Shaw’s in Dover-Foxcroft, organic free-range eggs were listed at $6.49 a dozen, with large eggs starting at $3.99.

“Due to a national egg shortage, costs have increased significantly in recent weeks,” the sign posted at the egg display said. “We will continue to work with our suppliers to improve availability.”

Aroostook County stores were not experiencing issues related to a shortage on Tuesday — at least not yet.

At Star City IGA in Presque Isle, large brown and white eggs were $3.99 a dozen on Tuesday. There was no evidence of increasing prices there, said Declan Curtis, assistant manager at the store.

“We haven’t really struggled with that here,” Curtis said.

A dozen large brown eggs was priced at $4.25 at Save-A-Lot in Presque Isle. No medium or jumbo eggs were in evidence Tuesday morning.

Calls to corporate offices at Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets were not immediately returned.

But, Hannaford, which operates stores in Caribou and Houlton in Aroostook County as well as other locations throughout Maine, listed store-brand large brown and white eggs at $4.69 per dozen on their website. Organic cage-free eggs were $5.49 a dozen.

With its last outbreak this summer, the state is still at high risk of avian flu spreading, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Officials at the Division of Animal and Plant Health advise small flock and commercial operations to keep birds indoors to prevent the disease’s spread.

The bird flu, along with cage-free egg requirements, have driven prices up in Massachusetts as well, according to Western Mass News.