Bird flu outbreak drives up egg prices

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Add to that the economic forces driving up food prices: bird flu. An epidemic of bird flu is spreading in American poultry flocks.

Now consumers are seeing the impact at the grocery store.

H5N1 avian flu is highly contagious and deadly to birds. Farmers therefore have to kill entire herds when they reach commercial farms.

“It’s hard to say anything other than its devastating effect,” said Emily Metz, who heads the American Egg Board.

The current wave has infected more than 27 million chickens and turkeys, she said. “There were about 6% of our laying hen population that were affected.”

And with ongoing supply chain issues, that was enough to drive up the price of eggs.

The wholesale price was below $1.50 in early March.

“And we saw reported prices above $3 per dozen leading into the Easter period. So more than double,” said Brian Earnest, poultry industry analyst at rural lending institution CoBank.

Outbreaks of this virus tend to decrease with warmer weather. “We probably saw the peak behind us.”

Still, if the virus continues to reach commercial farms, rising egg and poultry prices could persist.

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