A shelf is half-stocked with eggs in a Tokyo supermarket. Photo: Japan Today
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Japan egg prices soar amid record 16 mil bird flu cullings

57 Comments

Egg prices are soaring in Japan as the current avian flu season sees a record 16 million birds marked for culling, impacting both the restaurant sector and households already struggling with inflation.

Egg-laying hens make up more than 90 percent of birds in the process of being culled, according to the agriculture ministry, limiting the supply of eggs and pushing prices higher.

The current bird flu outbreak has spread at an unprecedented pace since the season began in October, with at least 80 cases at poultry firms in 26 of the country's 47 prefectures.

As of March 2, the wholesale price per kilogram of medium sized eggs was 335 yen in Tokyo, the highest ever since 1993 when data first became available, according to JA.Z-Tamago Co, the egg seller within the JA agricultural cooperative group.

Concerns about shortages are also growing, with an increasing number of restaurants opting to suspend offering egg-based dishes.

It is expected to take at least six months until egg availability recovers to former levels.

Once an infection is confirmed at a poultry farm, all its birds are culled, after which the facility is sanitized and quarantine measures are put in place. It can take between three and seven months for such farms to return to raising chickens as normal again.

"Work to resume poultry farming is already under way and (production) should be active in early spring," a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official said.

"But it will take some time for numbers to recover because farms won't return to 100 percent capacity straight away," the official said.

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57 Comments
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Even without bird flu egg price will soar, Japan currently experiencing inflation.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/02/24/business/inflation-record-high/

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

It's ridiculous that Japan has not followed the lead of developed nations and switched to large-scale free range farming models.

Ethics aside (because we all know animal wellbeing is merely an afterthought over here), when it comes to bird flu, free-range hens are considered far safer than battery hens in spreading the virus because they are far less likely to contract the virus in the first place. Free-range hens have access to outdoor areas, where they can roam, scratch for food, and engage in natural behaviors. This means they are less crowded and have better ventilation, which reduces the risk of transmission of the virus.

On the other hand, battery hens are raised in cramped conditions, in large, crowded sheds - with each chicken given a space smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. This creates an ideal environment for the virus to spread, as the close proximity of the birds makes it much easier for the virus to move from bird to bird.

Free-range hens are also typically healthier and have stronger immune systems than battery hens as well, which help them fight off the virus if they do become infected. Not to mention, their more varied and nutrient-dense diet, which can also contribute to their overall health and resilience.

One could say that chicken farms are a microcosm of Japan's stubborn refusal to embrace positive change, and are now paying dearly for because of. And the ones paying most dearly for it are egg consumers like you and I.

-6 ( +18 / -24 )

Factory farming animals is the cause of this outbreak

8 ( +15 / -7 )

Indeed it is the animal unfriendly way of keeping these chicken that is the problem, and those eating their eggs don’t deserve any better than getting soaring prices. Free-range egg prices are not affected so far, at least in the various places I buy them.

8 ( +16 / -8 )

It's ridiculous that Japan has not followed the lead of developed nations and switched to large-scale free range farming models.

It's ridiculous that people think Japan has the land space and workforce, willing to put the effort into such a venture.

There are some free-range chicken farms, and their products are almost twice as expensive as what people normally pay!

I am sure people dont want to be paying 500 yen for a pack of 6 eggs! That's about what they cost

3 ( +10 / -7 )

"the wholesale price per kilogram of medium sized eggs was 335 yen" 

I -- and about 99% of the population -- have no idea if that is expensive, normal or cheap. 99 percent of people buy eggs by the cartoon, usually 6 or 10 eggs, at retailers like supermarkets, not by the kilogram (!) from wholesalers. What are consumers' prices?

Typical Soviet style Japanese news reporting.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Good morning Jay.

I can understand your sentiment, but your facts are way ff.

Bird flu is introduced into a flock from an outside vector. ie, a wild bird.

Free range chickens are more susceptible to this introduction and are close enough to each other (because of the economics of large flocks and their group behavior ) to be just as suscepatble to the disease as caged birds.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/25/the-end-of-free-range-eggs-year-round-bird-flu-outbreaks-may-keep-hens-inside

12 ( +16 / -4 )

And yet, still half the price of eggs in the US.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

kilogram of medium sized eggs was 335 yen

This sounds way cheap. Is "egg prices soar" an accurate description here?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The eggs we buy now cost ¥350/10. Last month about ¥250/10. We use about 20 in one week. Many other items have also increased in price.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I avoid the big supermarket chains and shop at Kanesue in Aichi / Nagoya ( cash only local supermarket chain..3 % off with the free rewards card)

¥215 for 10 eggs.

Aeon ¥300 + !

Big chain supermarkets should be making it cheaper...but a monopoly doesn't make it cheaper does it !!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

That was a known cause and effect just keep on jacking the price up on food for everyone in Japan

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

They are expensive now because they have been too cheap in the past. The true costs will always be paid in the end. MIght even get more expensive when bird flu gets into the human population, care of "cheap" eggs. Time to wake up to what we have done to the world. "No .... I don't wanna hear it!"

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Factory farming animals is the cause of this outbreak

Asserting things without evidence does not make it true.

You might as well have said chicken feathers are the cause of the outbreak

6 ( +8 / -2 )

As of March 2, the wholesale price per kilogram of medium sized eggs was 335 yen in Tokyo.

That is dirt cheap!! 15-16 medium eggs in 1kg at average of 63g per egg. That equals $3.98 AUD for 15-16 eggs. In Australia 12 eggs sell at retail for between a low of $4.60 up to $10.00 AUD for organic eggs at Woolworth's supermarket's.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

This is eggs-pensive

6 ( +8 / -2 )

| "the wholesale price per kilogram of medium sized eggs was 335 yen" 

I -- and about 99% of the population -- have no idea if that is expensive, normal or cheap.

You can probably guess that it is not "normal or cheap" from the headline. It used to be around ¥300 to the kilogram at the beginning of February, that's a 10% increase within a month and a half. Add in the contribution margin and then you'll have an eventual 15% to 20% increase at the supermarkets.

In our local small-ish supermarket we don't notice increases in egg prices yet. However, what's noticeable is that our local ultra-cheap discount supermarket has not been carrying eggs for some two weeks now, the empty shelf decorated with a sign that they will only sell one carton to each customer.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ok, they got a bit more expensive but give me a break that the price of eggs is impacting family budgets. If the egg price has a negative impact on what you can eat you’ve been in dire straits before that. Which is hard, I agree. But don’t give me that line….most people here could t care less if 10 eggs cost 200 or 500

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Peter14Today  10:39 am JST

That is dirt cheap!! 15-16 medium eggs in 1kg at average of 63g per egg. That equals $3.98 AUD for 15-16 eggs. In Australia 12 eggs sell at retail for between a low of $4.60 up to $10.00 AUD for organic eggs at Woolworth's supermarket's.

So true. Japan is still a bargain.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Never heard of eggs sold by the kilo.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I wonder how they are exposed to the virus as battery hens are kept in enclosed structures.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Never heard of eggs sold by the kilo

because in the USA they are sold in a pack dozens.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

RE mountainpearToday 01:12 pm JST

I wonder how they are exposed to the virus as battery hens are kept in enclosed structures.

The structures are enclosed, but are widely ventilated.

Some feed blows out of the structures which bring the wild birds close and eventually into the structures.

Smaller birds like sparrows, tits, finches and starlings will then find a way in.

Rodents like rats and field mice will also enter and are suspected to also be a vector for the virus.

Once the animals are in, they drop their feces and away you go.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Once in the UK, I had to go and fix the electricity in a battery chicken house of more than 10,000 birds, five to a small cage.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

One could say that chicken farms are a microcosm of Japan's stubborn refusal to embrace positive change, and are now paying dearly for because of. And the ones paying most dearly for it are sh*t-on-the-end-of-the-stick egg consumers like you and I.

this is true ? Why is it downvoted ? Lol

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

import more eggs then...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Fresh eggs do not travel very well. other Asian countries are also affected by bird flu.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Data tells that free-range hens are healthier and immune-efficient than battery-caged ones and such eggs are more nutritious and sanity than caged hens' ones.

There're 2 types of free range chicken raising, free space equipped chicken coop raising and only fence surrounding free range raising. The former spends the most cost but isn't susceptible to epidemic. The latter takes the least handling but is susceptible to epidemic and seized by raptors.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All the bacteria are becoming antibiotics resistant as they force feed the chickens. Not only they are forcing them to eat growth hormones the same type used in pro body builders

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

All the bacteria are becoming antibiotics resistant

They can become resistant to antibiotics because of the overuse of antibiotics.

Also, the avian flu is a virus, not a bacterium. Vital difference, pun intended.

as they force feed the chickens.

Chicken are not force fed.

Not only they are forcing them to eat growth hormones the same type used in pro body builders

Using steroids and hormones on chicken has been banned for more than half a decade. Their size is the result of selective breeding.

Seriously, where do you get your facts? You should ask for your money back.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I would happily pay 1,000 yen for a dozen eggs, if cruelty was ruled out.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Using steroids and hormones on chicken has been banned for more than half a decade.

Absent an edit function: not more than half a decade, more than half a century.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There are some free-range chicken farms, and their products are almost twice as expensive as what people normally pay!

Since the more expensive eggs aren't going up in price at the same rate as usual eggs, that should be less of a problem.

I find it odd what people consider to be acceptable prices anyway. Even at 100 yen an egg, a good free range organic egg is a bargain of nutrition and protein. And at the moment, such eggs run are from 50 to 100 yen each. Even for a family on a budget, this is a great way to keep a family fed. Why is 100 yen for a sustainably raised egg too much, but 120 yen for a McDonald's burger is considered cheap? I am wondering if these same people are fine with paying 2000 or 3000 yen for fermented grape juice?

Industrial farming methods got people hooked on cheap prices and tasteless food. To me, it's poor judgment to buy low quality eggs just to save 30 yen or so.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"Why is 100 yen for a sustainably raised egg too much, but 120 yen for a McDonald's burger is considered cheap?"

Don't look now, but your understanding of McDonald's prices are woefully anachronistic! Add 25% and try again. (Speaking of protein, their cheeseburgers have risen by almost 40% in just the last year...so where's the "cheese flu" that's causing that? lol.)

And that's another problem that has little to do with the flu: the opportunism of the retailers here in Japan and elsewhere. Forget about the wholesale (kilogram?) cost. When retailers hear about this latest bout of avian flu, they add extra to the cost for the consumer on top of any other costs actually stemming from the situation at the farms...just because they can do it. Never let a crisis go to waste, as an opportunistic former politician once crowed. And guess what? The new (higher) price gets baked in to become the New Normal. Because why not?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Commanteer:

To me, it's poor judgment to buy low quality eggs just to save 30 yen or so.

I am afraid you failed to consider that family means several people and that they cannot just eat 1 egg per day.

If you apply the same logic to all products and multiply by the number of meals and multiply by the number of people, the difference becomes huge. 30 yen more here in your example means 30% more on a family budget.

Let's say the family spend 100,000/month, that means their new budget will be 130,000. A lot of families cannot afford this, or this means less activities for children or less travel or something.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Be thankful, at least there are there are many and you can still buy eggs. Some places in China, you have to wait in long lines just to be able to buy eggs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@garymalmgren Thanks for the explanation but considering the huge economic losses that have occurred over the years you would think better practices and infrastructure could avoid wild birds and vermin entering the sheds.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If you apply the same logic to all products

But why would an avian flu outbreak apply to all products? Is there a tofu virus that necessitates the culling of all tofulopes in tofulope farms around the country? (Yes, that's where tofu comes from, don't @ me.)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Jay.

Free range isn't a solution to the culls. In the UK, in response to bird flu, free range birds had to be moved indoors. They should probably be segregated and waiting, before culling fewer birds as bird flu isn't going away, but they seem to want to take bites out of sector.

I suppose it is an opportunity to take poultry farming down a percentage. They will leverage one of the many bovine diseases for cattle, especially in countries where it is politically difficult to act against the farming lobby. Long gestation nvCJD may cause a few mortalities around now from the original BSE outbreak, so BSE may be making a comeback. Manna from heaven for nudge units.

The picture doesn't suggest a shortage. You won't see that many of anything on British supermarket shelves.

For pricing (UK). Morrisons 6 Medium free range eggs: £1.39 = Y225. Tesco 6 Medium free range eggs comes up as 'out of stock'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Once in the UK, I had to go and fix the electricity in a battery chicken house of more than 10,000 birds, five to a small cage.

I remember one article I read in English class about how they put contact lenses in chickens’ eyes as that impairs their vision and makes it harder for them to see blood when they get stressed out in cramped cages and start pecking at each other. Once they draw blood, they gang up on the weak and don’t stop until it drops. Apparently this saves or can save money or reduce loss for the poultry industry. Teacher asked us to debate whether the invention was good or not and why.

I found something that referred to that article. I think it was the same writer.

https://www.upc-online.org/s96redlens.html

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Peter14: the Australian minimum wage is $22 + 10% super = $24 per hour Japan minimum wage is 931yen per hour. Yes Australia minimum wage is more than double that of Japan. If eggs are $5 for 10 per average that is approximately 25% of the Australian minimum wage per hour compare to Japan 300 yen per 10 eggs that is approximately 30% of 931 yen so eggs are more expensive in Japan by approximately 5% for a Japan minimum wage earner. Egg are huge part of the Japan diet compare to Australia diet.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I eat about 1,000 eggs per year. ¥25,000 now ¥35,000.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can eat 50 eggs.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Based on what I have read from US farmers on the subject, the only way to insulate chickens from exposure to bird flu is to move them into indoor biosecure buildings with employees showering and changing clothes on their way in and out, at great expense. Any bird that is outdoors is in danger of exposure because bird flu is well established in wild bird populations. There is a vaccine however that is currently being administered to flocks that is promising.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That is dirt cheap!! 15-16 medium eggs in 1kg at average of 63g per egg. That equals $3.98 AUD for 15-16 eggs. In Australia 12 eggs sell at retail for between a low of $4.60 up to $10.00 AUD for organic eggs at Woolworth's supermarket's.

So true. Japan is still a bargain."

Couple of things.

1) You are comparing Japan "wholesale "prices per kg against "retail prices " in Woolies or Coles in Aus. Apples and oranges.

2) Aussie wages are way higher than Japan ( almost double ) - both minimum hourly wage and average FT.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I can eat 50 eggs.

no one cares.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Where do they sell eggs by the kg?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I can do it in 1 hour.

No one cares

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Who would have known kilograms are a form of measurement?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Who would have known kilograms are a form of measurement?

Next time my wife tells me to pick up some eggs, I'll remember to ask her how many kilograms she wants.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am afraid you failed to consider that family means several people and that they cannot just eat 1 egg per day.

If you apply the same logic to all products and multiply by the number of meals and multiply by the number of people, the difference becomes huge. 30 yen more here in your example means 30% more on a family budget.

My point is that eggs are an excellent value for the money compared to other foods - and people would be wiser to get more value for their money. Compare the value of an egg with other similarly priced foods. For their nutritional value, I have always found eggs t be remarkably cheap.

It's awful that prices are increasing - I feel it every time I go to the supermarket. But that has to do with inflation and a stagnant economy - neither of which are being seriously addressed. Avian flu is transient and a convenient distraction for the government.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

To get any benefits from free range eggs they have be used within 24 hours the only benefits is to the chook having a better environment. Which good. So you are not paying for a better product but paying for a better treatment to an animal who do not know the difference anyway. If all chook were free range the minimum wage earner would have to pay double or eat dry dog food which would be to next best protein base food. So those calling for a free range egg industry instead of battery eggs would rather the minimum wage earn to eat dry dog food for your empath for chooks. To get the benefits get yourself some chooks stop buy eggs from the shop if your empathy means that much.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

 So you are not paying for a better product but paying for a better treatment to an animal who do not know the difference anyway. 

Even accepting your claim that animals can’t tell the difference between good and bad environments (which I don’t) - I as a consumer do know the difference and am willing to pay a bit extra for eggs that do not come from tortured birds. Or rather, I will not buy anything produced from cruelty.

As for folk on minimum wage, surely the answer is not to torture more birds (or pigs, or cattle) but to raise the minimum wage?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Eggs while good to eat are not actually an essential item.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Where do they sell eggs by the kg?

Who would have known kilograms are a form of measurement?

Where I live eggs are normally sold by quantity of eggs, one dozen, five dozen, etc., not by their weight.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Where I live eggs are normally sold by quantity of eggs, one dozen, five dozen, etc., not by their weight.

Are they also sold by size? As in small, medium or large?

The size of an egg is determined by weight so if you buy a dozen large eggs, then weigh them at home and they only weigh as much as a dozen medium eggs should, then you've been ripped off.

But the article is talking about wholesale, not retail.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's a lot less bang for your cluck.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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