The Rangeley IGA is seeing a slight falloff in high-priced egg sales, but touists still are buying eggs that sell for upwards of $10 a dozen, said Steve Grant, assistant manager of the grocery store, which is shown here in an October 2020 file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

At Tozier’s Family Market in Brewer, egg sales are down by two-thirds over the past couple months. At a Rangeley IGA, they are selling at a normal pace to wealthier residents who have flocked there from out of state.

That may change. Prices are down recently, but they are expected to rise again due to national factors, including inflation and supply disruptions.

The biggest factor driving high prices is the avian flu, which caused shortages and began pushing up egg prices last summer. Customers at Tozier’s in Brewer gasped in the store aisles when they saw prices that started the year at $1.70 per dozen large eggs more than double, said manager Dale Tozier Jr.

The avian flu killed 49 million birds in 46 states in 2022, about 40 million of them egg-laying birds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quickly driving up egg prices as production fell. Total production in December 2022 was 9.12 billion eggs, down 6 percent from the previous year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The price for a dozen large brown or white eggs at Tozier’s is $4.89 this week, down considerably from the $6.19 just after Christmas, said Tozier, who runs the four family-owned Tozier’s markets, two in Brewer and one each in Searsport and Bucksport. The store buys from the IGA distributor in New Hampshire.

This sign greeted customers at the egg display at Shaw’s Supermarket in Dover-Foxcroft on Oct. 10. Credit: Valerie Rozyman / BDN

The bird flu isn’t the only anomaly pushing prices up. Tozier said the trucking industry is experiencing labor shortages affecting some deliveries and prices. Eggs from local farms can’t make up the difference because they are typically sold directly to consumers rather than to supermarkets.

Tozier said customers in his store are cutting back on purchases and looking for less expensive protein sources as inflation raises prices of all foods. He said his markets have been selling about two-thirds fewer eggs over the past couple months. He, in turn, is ordering less of them.

“Eggs aren’t in the budget now,” Tozier said.

At the Rangeley IGA, egg prices are lower this week as well, but at up to $9 a dozen, they are much higher than in Brewer. Assistant Manager Steve Grant said wealthier tourists are still buying eggs at those prices.

Neither manager had an idea of where prices will go in the future. Both had been alerted by their distributors last year that prices could top $10 a dozen. They get updates weekly and sometimes daily on price trends.

A Hannaford spokesperson said the stores are closely monitoring prices and working with suppliers to keep them low and dependable. The price of eggs at its stores in Portland and in Manchester, New Hampshire, sat at $4.89 a dozen this week.