Egg Week


USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, May 17th 2023.


Market Overview


  • The average wholesale unit revenue values for Midwest Extra-large and Large sizes were unchanged this past week suggesting a market bottom, but representing a lower than seasonal late spring value. The plateau has terminated the precipitous decline over the previous six weeks. Mediums were unchanged with a 10 cent per dozen price differential from Large, indicating restoration in the balance between supply and demand in this size. This past week shell egg inventory was down a noteworthy 5.4 percent, compared to a fall 0.9 percent last week. This is consistent with low wholesale prices and presumably higher demand despite disproportionately high prevailing shelf prices. Over the coming three weeks the volume of retail purchases will be influenced by lower seasonal demand. If chains reduce margins consistent with wholesale prices, higher demand can be anticipated. Eggs are now highly competitive in price against the comparable costs for other protein foods despite extortionate retail margins. From the last week in February through mid-December 2022 the producing flock was down on average by 20 million hens and now by 12 to 15 million as flocks are slowly restored but still lower than their pre-HPAI complement.


  • Total industry inventory was down by a substantial 6.3 percent overall this past week to 1.77 million cases with a concurrent 9.9 percent decrease in breaking stock attributed to less diversion to the shell market and presumably higher demand during late spring from food service and industry and increased exports. Volume this past week was stimulated by lower prices for egg products. Wholesale prices compare with 2020 and 2021 also characterized by low ex-plant unit revenue. Benchmark prices were 75 percent lower than for the corresponding week in 2022 influenced by flock depletions following HPAI.


  • It is now apparent that the inventory held by chains and other significant distributors may be more important over the short term in establishing wholesale price than the USDA regional inventory figures published weekly. This is probably the reason for sequential fluctuation in weekly industry stock. It is evident that the USDA undercounted hens in the national flock leading up to Easter given the report of a 2.9 percent compensatory increase in the size of the national flock three weeks ago, accounting in part for sharply falling wholesale prices. The size of the producing flock was actually down 0.5 million hens this past week and close to one million over two weeks


  • Despite a lower flock size as a result of HPAI, relatively low unit revenue compared to pre-HPAI will now be a reality through May 2023. Sporadic outbreaks of HPAI are now less likely given that the seasonal Spring migration of waterfowl is complete. The number and extent of outbreaks cannot be assessed until more information is available concerning the molecular and field epidemiology of spring and fall cases. The USDA has yet to identify modes of transmission for the 2022 epornitic including airborne spread. There have been no case-control studies released on possible deficiencies in biosecurity on affected complexes that presumably demonstrated specific risk factors.  APHIS has been remiss in evaluating available data and providing timely practical guidance on prevention as evidenced by releasing a backdated report during the first week of March that was devoid of recommendations to prevent HPAI infection in flocks.


  • The current relationship between producers and chain buyers based on a single commercial price discovery system constitutes an impediment to a free market. The benchmark price amplifies both downward and upward swings as evidenced over the past five weeks. A CME quotation based on Midwest Large, reflecting demand relative to supply would be more equitable. If feed cost is determined by CME ingredient prices then generic shell eggs should be subject to a Midwest Large quotation.


  • According to the USDA the U.S. flock in production was down 0.16 percent or 0.5 million hens to 303.1 million during the week ending May 17th. The flock in production includes about 4.0 million molted hens that resumed lay during the past week plus 4.0 million pullets attaining production.


  •  The ex-farm price for breaking stock was up 1.2 percent this past week to 42 cents per dozen. Checks delivered to Midwest plants were unchanged at 32 cents per dozen. Prices for breaking stock will remain low until there is a substantial increase in wholesale price.


The Week in Review




According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports released on May 15th the Midwest wholesale price (rounded to one cent) for Extra-large was unchanged from last week at $0.79 per dozen. Large size was unchanged at $0.77 per dozen. The price for Medium size was also unchanged at $0.67 per dozen as delivered to DCs. Prices should be compared to the USDA benchmark average 6-Region blended nest-run cost of 90.3 cents per dozen as revised by the EIC for April 2023. This excludes provisions for packing, packaging materials and transport, amounting to 47 cents per dozen in mid-2022, according to the EIC but now probably closer to 52 cents per dozen. Accordingly producers of generic shell eggs are operating with negative margins. The progression of prices during 2023 to date is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.


The May 15th 2023 edition of the USDA Egg Market News Report documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $0.84 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending May 8th 2023. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week.  The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $0.77 per dozen. At the high end of the range, the price in the South Central region attained $0.91 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was 65 cents per dozen lower than the 3-year average of $1.50 per dozen. This past week Midwest Large was approximately $1.85 below the corresponding week in 2022 elevated by losses due to HPAI.

Flock Size 


According to the USDA the number of producing hens reflecting May 17th (rounded to 0.1 million) was down 0.5 million (0.16 percent) to 303.1 million. This is a sharp and inexplicable contrast to the apparent increase of 8.6 million hens reported by the USDA three weeks ago. The total U.S. flock includes about 4.0 million molted hens due to return to production with approximately 4.0 million new pullets reaching maturity each week based on USDA monthly chick-hatch data. The increase is offset by routine flock depletion in addition to past losses during 2022 due to the HPAI epornitic. Based on inventory level and prices the hen population producing eggs should now be in relative balance with consumer demand. Industrial and food service off-take although increasing, has not reverted to pre-COVID levels. Prices will continue to fluctuate and expected to trend downwards through May 2023. Prices of shell eggs and products will also depend on any future incident outbreaks of HPAI offset by the contribution of new pullets and of molted hens to supply.


According to the USDA the total U.S. egg-flock on May 17th was down 0.5 million hens (0.16 percent) to 308.4 million including second-cycle birds and those in molt. Any difference between hens in production and total hens is an approximate figure but denotes that many molted hens resumed production in mid-March to meet Easter demand. Subsequently with lower prices older flocks have been molted or depleted. At present there are now at least 12 to 15 million fewer hens in both the total and producing flocks with the difference equivalent to about four percent of the pre-HPAI national flock of 325 million hens.




Cold storage stocks of frozen products in selected centers on May 15th 2023 amounted to 2.397 million pounds (1,090 metric tons) of frozen egg products, up 0.3 percent from the inventory of 2.391 million lbs. on May1st 2023. The monthly USDA Cold Storage Report below quantifies a reduction in the actual total stock level.


The most recent monthly USDA Cold Storage Report released on April 25th 2023 documented a total stock of 24.4 million pounds (11,075 metric tons) of frozen egg products on March 31st 2023. This quantity was up 0.2 percent from the March 31st 2022 value of 24.3 million pounds.  March 31st 2023 frozen egg inventory was down 6.6 percent from the previous month ending February 28th 2023 attributed to presumably 20 million fewer hens in the national flock due to HPAI depletion during 2022. Compared to March 31st 2022 yolk inventory was up 17.6 percent to 732 million lbs. on March 31st 2023.


A total of 87.1 percent of combined inventory (21.2 million lbs.) comprised the categories of “Whole and Mixed” (46.7 percent) and “Unclassified” (40.4 percent). The lack of specificity in classification requires a more diligent approach to enumerating and reporting inventory by the USDA


Shell Inventory


The USDA reported that the national stock of generic shell eggs effective May 15th 2023 was down 6.3 percent. The relative movement of stock over the past week suggests increased consumer demand although retail prices do not reflect the sharp seasonal fall in wholesale price. Combined with breaking stock, the total inventory of shell eggs in the industry is now at 1.77 million cases (1.88 million last week and 118,000 cases lower). The U.S. population of laying hens at this time is influenced by the number of older birds previously culled through December 2022 due to HPAI, and includes the population unaffected by HPAI, flocks retained after molting (with an anticipated decrease in this category based on price) and started pullets from chick placements in early December 2022. Going forward, younger hens will assume a larger proportion of the national flock as more flocks are placed compensating for the flocks depleted due to HPAI.


Five of six USDA Regions reported lower stock levels this past week. The regions are listed in descending order of stock: -


  • The Midwest Region was up 1.1 percent compared to the previous week to 525,100 cases.
  • The Southeast Region was down 3.7 percent to 281,100 cases
  • The South Central Region was down 18.4 percent to 261,100 cases
  • The Southwest Region was down 4.4 percent to 148,800 cases.
  • The Northeast Region was down 5.2 percent to 153,400 cases
  • The Northwest Region was down 2.7 percent to 63,200 cases


The total USDA six-area stock of commodity eggs comprised 1,765,300 cases, down 6.3 percent, of which 81.2 percent were shell eggs (80.4 percent last week denoting similar demand as the previous week). The inventory of breaking stock was down 9.9 percent to 332,600 cases. Shell egg inventory was down 5.4 percent attaining 1,432,700 cases. The lower level of breaking stock over the past week is attributed to a balance between increased conversion to egg powder for export, diversion to the shell egg market and higher demand for liquids by industry, food service and consumers. The average price for Midwest checks and breaking stock combined was 47.7 percent of the average value of Midwest Extra-large and Large shell eggs (last week 47.0 percent) consistent with disproportionately lower prices for breaking stock and checks compared to shell eggs. The differential can be compared to 80.0 percent in April 2022 reflecting the initial period of high demand for both shell eggs and breaking stock after the onset of HPAI. This past week the wholesale Midwest Extra-large and Large shell egg prices were unchanged compared to breaking stock and checks combined that were almost unchanged, up 0.6 percent on average from the previous week. This demonstrates the respective demands for shell eggs and egg products. There is interconnectivity of the packing and breaking segments of the egg industry under circumstances of extreme disturbances in either supply (lower due to HPAI in 2022) or demand (higher during COVID in 2020). The price for breaking stock and for checks is influenced by the relative demand for generic shell eggs and contract obligations with breakers.


On May 15th 2023 the inventory of other than generic eggs amounting to 451,800 cases (down 0.2 percent from last week at 452,800 cases) among three categories (with the previous week in parentheses) comprised: -


  • Specialty category, down 10.8 percent to 44,400 cases. (Was up 13.7% to 49,800 cases)
  • Certified Organic, up 1.6 percent to 86,000 cases. (Was down 3.6% to 86,000 cases)
  • Cage-Free category, up 1.0 percent to 321,400 cases. (Was up 3.9% to 318,300 cases)


Demand for cage-free product will not increase materially over the long term while generic eggs from caged flocks and some surplus down-classified cage-free eggs are on the shelf at $2.20 to $2.80 per dozen during normal supply conditions. This is supported by the findings of the comprehensive review relating to the transition from cages to alternative systems.* Existing and proposed individual state legislation mandating sale of only cage-free eggs will support most of the completed and anticipated transition from cages but total re-housing will not be completed by the beginning of 2025, less than 17 months away and ultimately never as considered by most observers. The constitutional status of Proposition #12 was confirmed by SCOTUS in a May 11th 2023 decision with specific reference to the dormant Commerce Clause relating to interstate trade. Many chains are reneging on or extending their time commitments to achieve an acceptable transition to cage-free eggs. With the current proportion of non-caged flocks, cage-free eggs are surplus to demand in some areas and are becoming a commodity in many markets subjected to the same price pressures as generic eggs from caged hens. Growth in demand for organic product has been static for months.

Long-term demand for cage-free eggs is influenced by the relative shelf prices of the category in comparison with generic white-shelled eggs from caged flocks. At the other end of the price range, consumers will purchase less-expensive brown cage-free product over organic eggs when there is a differential in price greater than about $1.20 per dozen under normal balance between supply and demand. Similarly, consumers will traditionally purchase white-shelled generic eggs in preference to brown-shelled cage-free with a differential of over $1.20 per dozen.

*Caputo,V. et al The Transition to Cage-Free Eggs. February 2023


A comprehensive structured market research project on cage-free eggs has provided an indication of consumer willingness to pay for this attribute. The industry requires a study on other aspects including shell color, GM status and nutritional enrichment. Above all agricultural economists should evaluate the impact of disruption in supply and demand arising from large-scale depopulation following HPAI in 2015 and the ongoing 2022-2023 HPAI epornitic.




USDA-AMS posted the following national shell egg prices as available, for May 12th 2023 in the Egg Markets Overview report for dozen cartons with comparable prices in parentheses for the previous week: -




Large, in cartons generic white:        $1.94     down 3.7 percent     ($1.87)

Large, in cartons cage-free brown:    $3.99     down 7.5 percent     ($3.71)   

Large C-F, California in Cartons:      $1.48     down 11.5 percent   ($1.65)


National loose, (FOB dock):              $0.57      down 14 percent     ($0.50)

NYC in cartons to retailer:                 $0.91      unchanged              ($0.91)

Regional in cartons to warehouse May 12th:     

             Midwest                                $0.77      down 19.8 percent   ($0.96)

             Northeast                               $0.82      down 18.0 percent   ($1.00)

             Southeast                               $0.87      down 20.7 percent   ($1.05)

             South Central                        $0.91       down 16.5 percent   ($1.09)

             Combined                             $0.84        down 17.7 percent   ($1.02)





USDA Certified Organic, Brown, Large:                           (none)       (none)   

            Cage-Free White, Large:                                     $3.99        ($3.71 White)

Omega-3 Enriched Specialty, White, Large:       $3.38       (none)

Generic White, Large Grade A                            $1.63*      ($1.30)

Generic White, Large Grade A  featured             $1.94*      ($1.87)                           

* Based on a small sample with few advertised promotions


The advertised featured price posted for the week ending May 12th for Large white grade A was $1.94 per dozen, down $0.07 per dozen or 3.6 percent from the previous week at $1.87 per dozen. Shelf prices will influence demand for generic categories given their availability and the comparison with higher advertised and actual shelf prices for specialty and cage-free brown eggs. Current supply was probably in balance with demand this past week as independent producers continue to divert shell eggs to breaking. Large integrated companies and packers continued to deliver to DCs at lower volumes as chains that held back on orders last week in anticipation of lower benchmark prices were faced with the need to replenish store and DC inventories.


For the current week the USDA were unable to document a benchmark-advertised retail price for certified organic. The USDA posted an advertised price of $3.99 per dozen for cage-free brown during the past week, up $0.28 per dozen or 7.5 percent higher than cage-free white. Large week-to-week fluctuations can be expected in the stock of specialty and organic eggs based on the small base of these categories. 


Retail demand will continue to be supported by home cooking and baking and reinforced by seasonal dining out as COVID is now ignored. Eggs and product purchases will be limited among some demographics by their disposable incomes and inflation.


There was insufficient USDA data on shelf prices this week to calculate retail margins. Demand will increase if chains pass on any reduction in wholesale price for generic eggs.  If subjective observations in three chains in North Carolina are representative in the range of $2.50 to $2.80 per dozen for Large generic white, retail margins exceed 150% on carton-packed cost as delivered to DCs or DSD                                    


Certified organic were not featured this past week. Omega-3 represented 60.7 percent of features and cage free, 8.3 percent last week. Generics comprised 31.0 percent of features divided between Large (25.5 percent) and Extra-large at 5.5 percent. This confirms that retailers promote generic categories if available in excess of demand.


USDA Cage-Free Data


According to the latest monthly USDA Cage-free Hen Report released on May 1st 2023, the number of certified organic hens during April 2023 was up 3.4 percent from March 2023 to 18.2 million.


The USDA reported the cage-free (non-organic) flock in April 2023 was 1.0 percent higher than in March 2023 to 103.2 million

According to the USDA the population of hens producing cage-free and certified organic eggs in April 2023 comprised: -



Total U.S. flock held for USDA Certified Organic production = 18.2 million (17.3 million in Q1 2023).

Total U.S. flock held for cage-free production                          = 103.2 million (98.1 million in Q1 2023).

Total U.S. non-caged flock                                                        =121.4 million (115.4 million in Q1 2023).


This total value represents 37.4 percent (last month 36.9 percent) of a nominal 325 million total U.S. flock pre-HPAI (but 39.1 percent of the national flock after HPAI mortality to a late April complement of 310 million). Hens certified under the USDA Organic program have decreased in proportion to cage-free flocks since Q1 of 2021.  


The accuracy of individual monthly values is questioned given a history of either sharp changes or no change in successive months as documented over the past two years. Precise quarterly reports would be more suitable for the industry in planning expansion and allocation of capital.


Processed Eggs


For the processing week ending May 13th 2023 the quantity of eggs processed under FSIS inspection during the week as reported on May 17th 2023 was down 0.7 percent compared to the previous processing week to a level of 1,663,550 cases, (1,675,882 cases last week). The proportion of eggs broken by in-line complexes was 53.3 percent (53.1 percent in-line for the previous week) indicating a lower proportion of contract and purchased eggs broken. The differential in price for shell sales and breaking will determine the movement of uncommitted eggs. This past week 64.9 percent of egg production was directed to the shell market, (64.7 percent for the previous week) responding to the differential in prices paid by breakers and packers. Breaking stock inventory was down 9.9 percent this past week to 332,600 cases despite diversion to shell-egg markets. Increased demand from QSRs and casual dining, with apparent continued demand from baking and eat-at-home has contributed to higher inventory of breaking stock. During the corresponding processing week in 2021 (during COVID recovery) in-line breakers processed 45.2 percent of eggs broken.


For the most recent monthly report for week ending April 29th 2022, yield from 6,075,770 cases  (7,007,366 cases last month) denoted a slight decrease in demand for liquid over the period April 2nd  through April 29th 2023.  Edible yield was 41.7 percent, distributed in the following proportions expressed as percentages: - liquid whole, 61.3; white, 23.7; yolk, 12.0; dried, 2.9.


All eggs broken during 2022 attained 76.22 million cases, 2.0 percent less than 2021. Eggs broken in 2023 to date amounted to 27,879,251 cases, 3.7 percent less than the corresponding period in 2022. This is attributed to decreased demand for egg liquids from retail, food service and QSRs and casual dining restaurants despite restoration of service as COVID restrictions are successively relaxed.




Breaking Stock


The average price for breaking stock was up 1.2 percent this past week to an average of 42 cents per dozen with an extreme range of 40 to 43 cents per dozen delivered to Central States plants on May 15th. Checks were unchanged this past week to an average at 32 cents per dozen over the most frequent range of 31 to 33 cents per dozen suggesting that the market for breaking stock has reached a bottom.


Shell Eggs


The USDA Egg Market News Report dated May 15th 2022 confirmed that Midwest wholesale prices for Extra-large, Large and Medium sizes were unchanged on average compared to the previous week. The trend of consecutive sharp lower prices ending with a plateau  and coupled with declining stock suggests a bottom for the market. The following table lists the “most frequent” ranges of values as delivered to warehouses*: -



       Current Week

    Previous Week

Extra Large

   77-80 cents per dozen

     77-80  unchanged


   75-78 cents per dozen

     75-78  unchanged            


    65-68 cents per dozen

     65-68  unchanged




Breaking stock

    40-43  cents per dozen

      39-43     up 1.2%


    31-33  cents per dozen

      31-33  unchanged  


*Store Delivery approximately 5 cents per dozen more than warehouse price


The May 15th 2023 Midwest Regional (IA, WI, MN.) average FOB producer price, for nest-run, grade-quality white shelled Large size eggs, with prices in rounded cents per dozen was unchanged from last week, (with the previous week in parentheses): -


         EL. $0.65 ($0.65), (estimated by proportion):  L. $0.59 ($0.59): M. $0.47 ($0.47)


The May 15th 2023 California price per dozen for cage-free, certified Proposition #12 compliant Large size in cartons delivered to a DC, (with the previous week in parentheses) was unchanged percent from last week.


         EL. $1.62 ($1.62); L. $1.48 ($1.48); M. $1.38 ($1.38)                                                        


Shell-Egg Demand Indicator  


The USDA-AMS Shell Egg Demand Indicator for May 17th was up 4.9 points from the last weekly report to -14.1 with a 6.3 percent decrease in total inventory and a 5.4 percent lower shell inventory from the past week as determined by the USDA-ERS as follows: -


Productive flock

    303,107,617 million hens

Average hen week production

80.4%  (was 80.6%)

Average egg production

                 243,745,281 per day

Proportion to shell egg market

                   64.9% (was 64.7%)

Total for in-shell consumption

 439,419 cases per day

USDA Shell Inventory

                  1,432,700 cases

26-week rolling average inventory

                  4.45 days

Actual inventory on hand

                  5.18 days

Shell Egg Demand Indicator

       -14.1 points (was -19.0 on May 10th 2023)


 See the text, tables and figures and the review of production data and prices comprising the USDA Report for April 2023 and the 3rd Quarter FY 2023 results for Cal-Maine Foods under the Statistics Tab.


Dried Egg Products


The USDA extreme range in prices for dried albumen and yolk products in $ per pound was released on May 12th 2023. Data posted by the USDA is incomplete but available values are depicted for the previous week and past months to illustrate the trend in prices influenced by HPAI depopulation and subsequent repopulation:-

Whole Egg


       $8.90  to   $11.25

Average    Jan.        $12.50

                 Feb.       $11.08

                 March    $11.75

                April       $11,28        


      $7.50  to  $9.55 

Average   Jan.        $14.65

                 Feb.       $11.94

                 March    $11.23

                April       $ 9.85      

Spray-dried white

  No quotation, past week

Average   Dec.      $14.18

                 Jan.       $14.18

       Feb-April.       No release


  No quotation, past week



Frozen Egg Products


The USDA range in prices for frozen egg products in cents per lb. on May 8th 2023 compared to the previous week were on average lower, (Whole egg, -7.1%; White, -11.1%; Yolks, -18.2%) but indicating a balance between available products and demand from the manufacturing and retail sectors: -

Whole Egg

  $0.70 - $1.42

$0.92 - $1.47


  $1.17 - $1.69

$1.22 - $1.99

Average for Yolks1

  $2.14 - $2.76

$2.40 - $3.59

                                   1. extreme range

Liquid Egg Products


The April 2023 averages for non-certified truckload quantities are tabulated (cents per lb.) with March 2023 values in parentheses are: -

Whole,  145c (203c);   Whites, 163c (149c); Yolks, 290c (307c). 


The USDA has not released a report on dried egg inventory since March 13th 2020 due to inability to obtain data from producers, and will not issue reports for the immediate future.




The pattern of HPAI outbreaks as expected during the first quarter of 2023 did not materialize. For reasons yet to be understood only a few outbreaks have been recorded among turkeys and backyard farms. Incident cases were diagnosed in the Maritime Provinces followed by Quebec and Ontario in Canada with a risk of extension along the four North American Flyways through May. It is evident that some wild domestic birds continue to shed virus based on cases in backyard flocks. This situation requires more intensive monitoring including surveys of wild domestic birds and small mammals. Given the risks and consequences of infection it will be necessary to maintain high levels of structural and operational biosecurity.


To date approximate losses in commercial flocks with confirmed HPAI and updates  include:-


  •   2,900,000 broilers on 18 farms in 7 states For 2023 to date losses are 450,000
  •      330,000  broiler breeders on 11 farms in 6 states.
  •   9,900,000  turkeys including a few breeder flocks on 231 farms in 7 states. For 2023 to date losses are approximately 250,000 with two incident cases in the Dakotas this past week.
  • 44,000,000  egg-production hens in total with 95 percent on 22 large complexes above 0.5 million in addition to 1,070,000 pullets with a total of 41 locations in 11 states. Pullet mortality does not include “at risk” replacements depleted on affected complexes with contiguous pullet rearing.


For calendar 2022 through March 28th 2023, 323 U.S. commercial U.S. flocks were infected with five occurring during March.  In addition there were 493 diagnosed backyard flocks with 34 during March. Losses of among commercial species have totaled 58.6 million commercial birds. (WOAH reported). To date 47 states, involving 400 counties have recorded at least one case involving wild birds, backyard flocks, commercial farms or their combination.


Mexico has depopulated 5.5 million commercial poultry, predominantly egg-producing flocks. One million have been depleted year-to-date

From April 2022 through mid-April 2023, Canada recorded 309 outbreaks in commercial flocks in nine Provinces and has depopulated 7.3 million commercial poultry including hens, turkeys and broilers. In addition numerous confirmations of HPAI were made in backyard and subsistence flocks.


During April 2023 16 cases of H5N1 with Eurasian genes were diagnosed in either raptors or waterfowl in eight states extending from Oregon East to New York and from North Dakota south to Arizona denoting widespread dissemination of HPAI H5N1virus. Isolation of H5N1 avian influenza in wild birds and backyard flocks is a function of surveillance intensity


Collectively the USMCA nations have depopulated approximately 70 million birds in at least 700 flocks.


France and Holland are evaluating AI vaccines. Mexico and Egypt have introduced vaccination. An International conference on vaccination against HPAI took place in Paris on October 25th and 26th and recognized unjustified trade barriers as obstacles to adoption of vaccination.


Backyard flocks that are allowed outside access will continue to be at risk of infection in the U.S. These small clusters of birds in suburban areas are of minimal significance to the epidemiology of avian influenza as it affects the commercial industry. Backyard flocks serve as indicators of the presence of virus among free-living birds as evidenced by ongoing outbreaks in commercial poultry flocks across the U.S.


The level of biosecurity in commercial egg production complexes and broiler farms is appreciably higher than in 2015 when the U.S. experienced an epornitic along the Mississippi Flyway The response of state and federal authorities since this time has been rapid and effective both in diagnosing and depleting affected flocks.  To date, all  floor-housed flocks that were infected were depopulated using foam. Euthanasia of egg production complexes involved various combinations of VSD+ applying heat or carbon dioxide or conventional kill-carts flushed with carbon dioxide.


The role of migratory waterfowl in introduction and subsequent dissemination of H5N1 HPAI virus is indicated by the close proximity of infected complexes and their counties with major waterways, lakes, wetlands or reservoirs during the spring and fall months of 2022. There is now limited subjective evidence of aerogenous transmission of HPAI over short distances with virus (possibly shed by wild endemic and migratory birds) becoming entrained in dust and introduced into ventilation inlets by powered ventilation systems.


It would have been of practical and financial benefit for APHIS epidemiologists to have reported on their findings from the questionnaires completed following outbreaks on commercial farms during the first quarter of 2022. Given the costs to the private and public sectors and to consumers priority should have been extended to the first seven large egg complexes affected. Case-comparison studies against representative unaffected complexes should have been performed using specific and relevent questionnaires. This would have provided advice to producers on risk factors. The industry should have been advised of likely routes of infection including possible aerogenous spread and whether any obvious defects in structural or operational biosecurity contributed to outbreaks. This would have facilitated appropriate preventive action and allocation of additional resources to intensified biosecurity.


A preliminary opinion with guidance during mid-April 2022 concentrating on large egg complexes was not an unrealistic request. This is especially the case since large egg complexes in Northwest Ohio and in Colorado were infected during September, in Iowa in October and again in November and in Oregon and South Dakota during early December 2022. This suggests ongoing exposure from wild domestic birds and possibly mammals in addition to migratory waterfowl as evidenced by the increasing incidence in backyard flocks that effectively serve as sentinels. An interim report was released during the first week of March 2023, inexplicably backdated to July 2022. This document, lacking either conclusions or recommendations was critiqued in a special edition of EGG-NEWS on March 8th