In July, over 183 million-dozen eggs were used in the breaking market — up 10 percent — and so far in 2008, breaking use has totaled 1.2 billion-dozen, a 4 percent increase over the same period in 2008, according to last month’s USDA/ERS Livestock, Dairy and Poultry report.

In total, table egg production in July was reported at 541 million-dozen, up fractionally from a year earlier. This is the second consecutive month that table egg production has increased. However, table egg production over the first seven months of 2008 was 3.7 billion-dozen, still down slightly from the same period in 2007. The reduction in table egg production has been due to a smaller number of hens in the table egg flock.

Over the first eight months of 2008, the wholesale price for a dozen eggs in the New York market has varied widely, from a high of $1.62 per dozen in March to a low of $1.04 in May. After the Easter holiday, egg prices had a seasonal decline in April and May, then rose in June, only to decline again in July. In August, prices began climbing and averaged around $1.22 per dozen. Prices have continued to strengthen, and by the beginning of September, weekly prices were averaging over $1.30 per dozen. In third-quarter 2008, USDA economists expect prices to average between $1.15 and $1.18 per dozen.

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Egg prices are forecast to average between $1.22 and $1.28 cents per dozen in fourth-quarter 2008, a high price in historical terms, but down from the very strong prices in fourth-quarter 2007.

In July, the overall number of hens in the laying flock was 278 million, a decrease of 1.1 percent from July 2007. This continued the long-term pattern of a smaller number of hens in the table egg flock. Table egg flock numbers have been continuously below the previous year (on a year-over-year basis) since January 2007, USDA says.