A flu that swept through flocks of laying hens earlier this year is sharply boosting the price of eggs.

New figures Wednesday from the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation show its shoppers paid an average of $3.23 for a dozen eggs in the quarter just completed. That’s up more than a dollar from the prior three-month period — and 2½ times as much as five years ago.

Supply and demand is the reason, notes the farm bureau’s Julie Murphree.

Farmers nationwide destroyed tens of millions of laying hens after the bird flu spread through their pens. While the center of the problem was the Midwest, it had a national ripple, as about one egg out of every five comes from Iowa.

But Murphree thinks shoppers shouldn’t be deterred. “Even at double the price, it’s still one of the most economical forms of protein you can get,” she said.

Hardest hit will be restaurants that are buying eggs by the crate. “Even if there is some type of egg substitute, a lot of your foodies and culinary artists, as I like to call them, will say it’s just not the same (as) having your egg as your core ingredient for your bread or your baking,” Murphree said.

The good news is that young chicks mature fast, so Murphree thinks egg prices will begin to drop soon. But she warned that there could be some sticker shock down the road.

That’s because the flu also affected turkeys and millions had to be destroyed. That could force up prices for the centerpiece of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

BEEF COSTS DROP

Despite the higher cost of eggs, the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation’s cost of a typical market basket of 16 basic items rose only 59 cents in the most recent quarter, to $50.88.

Helping to keep the overall price tag down: Beef prices appear to have peaked and are now dropping a bit. A pound of sirloin tip roast is finally under $6, close to a dollar less than it was six months ago.

Murphree credited lower energy costs for the fuel to run everything from tractors to the trucks that bring cattle to market.

The quarterly survey is based on what farm bureau volunteers pay at markets across the state. It includes whatever sales are being offered but does not take into account that some stores offer even lower prices for those who carry their affinity cards.

Reporter Howard Fischer is on Twitter: @azcapmedia