Egg prices, chickens, and the commodity markets: Food sits on a global bartering table and the World is hungry.

Kathy LaFollett
3 min readMar 15, 2023
A chick with one foot on an unhatched egg. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The commodity markets only see layers and broilers.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? The commodity markets only see layers and broilers.

The commodity markets and the USDA Earnings Reports are a thing of cold hard math. Take the time to read through any report on any commodity from sugar to oranges, beef to eggs. You’ll soon learn all food sits on a global bartering table. And the world is hungry.

According to the USDA earnings report for first-half 2023, table-egg production and average wholesale egg prices (New York, Grade A, large) are revised downward and upward, respectively. The revisions are based on the most recent data on egg-laying flock indicators and overall price firmness. Egg import and export forecasts for 2023 are unchanged from the last report.

The second-half of 2023 may lower as broiler and layer farms replenished chicken populations from the 2022 losses and culling of over 50 million chickens due to avian flu. It takes time to grow a chicken. The commodity markets see two types of chicken, broiler and layer. Both are a matter of incubation to production of meat carcass or eggs. A broiler chicken becomes a commodity number in 9 weeks. A laying chicken becomes egg productive at 18–22 weeks depending on the breed, commodity numbers based on the concept of Grade A, large. That math alone reveals time and cost investments double for the egg farmer.

Understanding poultry production as it pertains to the reality of commodity pricing makes egg prices painfully easy to understand. They’re expensive for a reason. They do not slate protein commodity pricing lower now or for the future due to feed commodity pricing, adverse weather globally, logistical costs, and population growth. The humanization of pet foods has put pets and humans at the same commodity barter table. The world and their companion pets are hungry.

Chickens feeding in a free range battery egg farm. There is no freedom in free range.
There are four types of egg farms, none offer freedom. Free range isn’t free, it’s just a bigger cage. The reality is marketing for us, cost controls for farmers.

The USDA predicted in 2013 that 13 million people, or 5% of Americans at projected population numbers, will rear chickens in the backyard by 2019. A 2018 American Pet Producers Association survey revealed roughly 10 million, or 3% of US households, raised chickens. Then COVID locked down an entire country, creating backyard chicken statistics that are still being accumulated. But looking at the growth of new chicken coop sales in 2022 and the forecasting through 2023 sees the US sales at $510 Million. That is a lot of coops. A growing global demand for coops through 2030 seems inevitable because of the global population growths. The world is hungry.

Backyard chicken in her nesting area sitting eggs.
Chickens are highly intelligent companion animals. Full disclosure; hens are sassy and freedom to a chicken is choosing to roost in a tree.

So is keeping chickens still a potential answer to the cost of a dozen eggs today? A backyard chicken egg farmer faces the same truths as a commodity chicken egg farmer. Your baby chicken will need to grow up first, and will give you eggs at around 20 weeks. The commodity costs for chicken feed, vaccinations, housing, and production time that chickens lay eggs for roughly 4 years of their 8 year lifespan all come into play. The reality is more romantic than a commodity. Chickens have proven to be excellent therapy companions for mental health. They are an enjoyable creature to spend time with. Eggs are a plus benefits thing. Quality of life is a priceless commodity.

Commodities will change in the future. Proteins will become insect based because of human population density. We could list mealworms one day for trade and price indexing. The future of farming will be an always expanding idea as climate change, our use and abuse of resources, global alliances or break-ups, and human numbers expand and change. Knowing what you can and cannot control for your family is the commodity of family health and security. Controlling your personal food production is a conversation worthy of having. Your foods, grown and produced on or in your property won’t be affected by commodity indexing. Yours doesn’t sit on the global bartering table.