Egg prices skyrocketed due to a massive bird flu wave that has reached 27 states, affecting about 27 million chickens and turkeys in the US.
The US Department of Agriculture announced another outbreak in one of the flocks in Idaho. This is the 27th state that has been affected by the virus.
Many farmers had to dispatch their birds to prevent any further contamination. This virus often spreads through secretions, leading to swelling, paralysis, and decreased egg production.
As stated by the USDA, what used to be the price of a dozen eggs of $1 increased to $2.95 and is continuously rising.
Consumers will also experience a price increase in baked goods, processed foods, and even in restaurants offering eggs and chicken meat on the menu.
Impact of Bird Flu on US Poultry
The bird flu virus has affected commercial chickens and backyard flocks, particularly those raised for eggs. It also impacted other bird species like turkeys, bald eagles, wild birds, and even penguins.
Fortunately, there is no human case of avian influenza virus infection in the United States.
Grady Ferguson, a senior research analyst for Gro Intelligence, reported that about 1.3% of all US chickens and 6% of the US turkey flock have been affected by the avian flu outbreak.
According to Ferguson, the last major bird flu outbreak was in 2015. That epidemic infected about 2.5% of chickens, and 50 million birds died.
He remarked that this current outbreak has the potential to be more impactful and disruptive to the poultry and egg market.
Ferguson said, “We are above and beyond the rate of spread we saw in 2015. What chicken egg prices did last time affected the market for years. We are a few months into the outbreak now, and the safety protocols haven’t worked. I don’t want to be a Chicken Little, but I think it’s going to be worse than last time.”
Biosecurity as a Solution
Tom Super, senior vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council, stated that farmers are doubling [and even tripling] their efforts on biosecurity at their chicken farms.
But doubling biosecurity and protocol in farms means putting up more equipment, such as showers for workers and antiseptic tire baths for trucks, to ensure transmission of the virus is prevented.
Super added that there is also a higher cost for feed and fuel. All of this adds to the pressure of the egg price spike.
The president of the American Egg Board, Emily Metz, reported that only 5% of the laying hens are affected so far. She felt optimistic about their approach to this outbreak.
She said, “We started a little bit earlier with biosecurity protocols than we did in 2015. We’ve invested in huge changes.”
She also mentioned that there are new high-tech protocols. That includes laser light technology to drive out migratory birds and prevent them from landing on buildings or farmlands.
While the cost may be high, she believes it would be a wise investment for farmers compared to the cost of loss due to avian flu.