In July, the number of birds in the U.S. table egg flock was 281.1 million, up just under 1 percent from 2011 numbers, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

The table egg flock has been larger year-over-year throughout 2012. With the increase in the table egg flock, table egg production has increased. Over the first seven months of 2012, table egg production has totaled 3.9 billion dozen, 1.1 percent higher than in 2011. Table egg production is expected to continue to be higher in the third quarter of 2012 but to fall in the fourth quarter, and production is also expected to be lower in 2013. The decrease, like that for broilers and turkeys, is expected to stem from a contraction in production arising from higher feed costs.

The hatching flock for meat-type birds (broiler-breeder flock) was reported at 51.1 million in July, down 6 percent from 2011, according to the USDA. The number of meat-type hens in the broiler-hatchery flock has been significantly lower on a year-over-year basis since mid-2011. The lower number of hens reflects the decreases in broiler chick demand as broiler integrators cut back expansion plans due to high grain prices and relatively weak domestic demand.

In July and August 2012, the weekly wholesale price for eggs in the New York market had a short-lived but sharp spike in prices. Prices at the beginning of July averaged around $1.05 per dozen and then rose to almost $1.60 per dozen, before falling back to around $1.16 per dozen by the beginning of September. Since the beginning of September, prices have begun to recover, said the USDA.

With this run-up in egg prices, the third-quarter 2012 average for New York egg prices is now expected to be $1.26–$1.29 per dozen, up almost $0.12 from the third quarter of 2011. Prices in the fourth quarter of 2012 are forecast at $1.32–$1.38 per dozen. This strengthening in prices in the fourth quarter is expected to come from a slow growth in production in the face of the normal increase in seasonal demand.

For more information and statistics on U.S. poultry and eggs, see www.wattagnet.com/marketdata.html.