When Adam Mason, owner of HEAL Farms in Apollo, thinks about buying his next order of chicken feed, he has a hole in his stomach.
“I’m a little worried because we have to get fodder soon, and I don’t know the price of fodder, but every time I have it has gone up dramatically,” Mason said. “It was 48 cents a pound when we started (in 2020) and now it’s up to 65 cents.”
Rising chicken feed prices have affected Mason’s farm operations, where he keeps 140 layers and about 1,800 broilers. Rising costs have also driven egg prices up — about 20% since the pandemic began, Mason added. A dozen eggs on his farm currently cost $7.
“When the pandemic hit, everything started to go up in price. Food cost is the big killer,” he said. “For us at least, because we don’t buy in bulk, about 50% of our retail price is the cost of feed.”
Mason’s farm uses organic feed and raises the chickens on pasture. Winter makes things more expensive because chickens don’t get as many nutrients from grass, he said.
“Winter is difficult for us because normally the food is complementary,” he said. “There are lots of insects, so they nail grasshoppers, crickets and earthworms, and there’s also lots of clover.”
Statewide egg production is also down from a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Monthly Chicken and Egg Report. In November, Pennsylvania produced 657.7 million eggs, down 9% from 2021.
Rising egg prices and rising feed prices are a topic of conversation and concern among local farmers, Mason said.
“Local farmers we’ve been talking to, my fellow farmers, everyone is raising prices to stay alive,” Mason said. “I apologize to the customers. They get it – they say, ‘Hey listen, we want your product, the healthy meat and eggs that (you) provide’, and they’re willing to pay for it, but I don’t. wondering when is this price not justified?”
Tom Charley, who co-owns three Shop ‘n Save stores in Westmoreland County, said eggs in his stores now cost $5.99 a dozen, although he anticipates a “pretty significant drop in costs” the next week.
“We are now at a level that I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “The market is crazy right now. I have never seen an egg market like this before.
In early January 2022, Charley said, his stores paid about $1.50 for a dozen eggs from their suppliers. Now, he says, a dozen eggs cost stores about $4.50 in early December.
The impact of bird flu on farms has been a driver of higher prices, according to its suppliers, as chickens are harder to come by, Charley added.
“The whole world has gone crazy over the past three years, but this is definitely one of those categories where you walk by and you’re like, ‘Those are eggs I was selling for a dollar!’ ” he said.
Not all impacted
Co-owner Andy Vlcek said buying local supplies helped insulate his farm, Nature’s Grove Farm in Latrobe, from the effects of rising grain prices.
“The idea of our farm is that we sort of break free from a centralized food system and keep things local, so when you have big impacts that you see on the industry, we don’t feel those effects. as much,” says Vlcek. “We get our food from one of the local farmers, who grows all his own grain. It still has supplements that go up a bit, but not all grain prices are really affected that much.
Nature’s Grove eggs are $6 a dozen. The farm keeps about 1,000 birds, a mix of layers and meat birds.
“Other people are catching up with our prices now,” Vlcek said. “We were the most expensive, but now we are in the middle of the pack.”
Although his farm was not so badly affected, he heard other local farmers worry about rising grain prices, he said.
“Especially if you’re using commercial foods and everything, it’s tough,” he said. “These costs are skyrocketing.”
Rising prices everywhere
At the Morgan family farm in Herminie, Brett Morgan found that rising costs and inflation were affecting both chicken egg and meat prices. He sells eggs for $5 a dozen, compared to $4 this time last year.
“At the simple price of a meat chicken you buy a chicken these days, four years ago a chicken would have cost you less than a dollar. That same chicken today costs $5,” he said. he said. “Then you go from a bag of grain that would have been literally $5 to $8, it’s now $23 for 50 pounds of food. Right off the bat, before that bird was 12 weeks old , you’re already $28 in.
Morgan also raises cattle, pigs and sheep, and the price of supplies for their care has also increased.
“The wrap around the bale of hay is a composite plastic netting,” he said. “Two years ago it would have been $3, now that little net is $9.”
It already looks ahead to the year ahead and takes inflation into account.
“Moving forward for next year with grain prices, I don’t know if I’ll do hogs next year,” he said. “Even with pastured pigs, you still have to supplement a pig, and a pig to be transported from feeder to butcher is about 800 pounds of feed per pig. With these prices up between 25% and 45%, there is a breaking point where someone wants to buy a pasture pig. … There’s a point where people are like, it’s just not worth it.
Julia Maruca is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org.