Chart - Iowa egg production (in millions)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

KANSAS CITY — Half of the laying hens lost to the highly pathogenic avian influenza (A.I.) outbreak in 2015 have been replaced and full replacement may occur by mid-2016 if recovery continues at the current pace, the Egg Industry Center in Ames, Iowa, said.

The center, which is administered by Iowa State University, expects egg prices to decline in the first quarter as supply continues to return to more normal levels.

“As the supply of egg products continues to recover, there will be ample availability for use in the food industry,” said John Howeth, executive vice president of the American Egg Board, Park Ridge, Ill. “And barring any further incidents, we expect supply and pricing to regain their previous consistency.”

Egg imports, fewer exports and unaffected farms increasing production all have contributed to help with the supply gap, the American Egg Board said.

There were 219 cases of A.I. confirmed in 15 states in late 2014 and 2015 with the last case detected June 17, 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. A total of 48,082,293 birds died or were euthanized as a result, including about 37 million chickens, most of which were laying hens that produced eggs for processing. Iowa was hit the hardest with 75 confirmed detections and the loss of 31,723,300 birds (mostly chickens), followed by Minnesota with 101 detections confirmed and 8,987,050 birds (mostly turkeys) lost.

Egg and egg product prices doubled and even tripled to record highs in the summer of 2015 due to tight to lacking supplies. Prices have fallen sharply since late summer as egg supplies increased, some demand was offset by egg replacers and consumers resisted high retail egg prices, which shifted more supply to processors. Breaking egg prices at yearend were below both pre-A.I. and year-ago levels, while prices for egg products varied but mostly still were above pre-A.I. levels.