A rapidly escalating bird flu outbreak in the U.S. is contributing to a surge in egg prices. It is also threatening to raise prices on other poultry products in the coming months as deaths continue to mount.
Since February, highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in commercial and backyard flocks in at least 24 states, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
So far, cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza have led to the deaths of more than 17 million birds, reports said, making it the worst bird flu outbreak since 2015, when nearly 50 million birds were slaughtered or died.
Shell egg prices have climbed to $2.88 a dozen, up about 52% since Feb. 8, Market Watch reports.
“Every day, all of our eggs are selling out,” said Dunn Avenue Poultry CEO Oz Balci who oversees the day-to-day operations. “We had to raise by $2. We are selling the one tray for $8.”
The chickens at Dunn Avenue Poultry Farm on the Northside of Jacksonville produce more than 500 eggs a day. Balci only sells his eggs to local families and not big-box stores -- 30 free-range, organic eggs for $8.
Balci blames the supply chain more than anything for his reasoning behind raising prices. But this bird flu is not helping prices.
There had been no outbreaks reported in Florida or Georgia as of Monday, and while Balci said he is not overly concerned about the bird flu affecting his chickens, even his small farm is feeling the effects of costs going up.
Restaurants are also saying the bird flu outbreak is adding to the current struggles due to the pandemic.
A Chief Operating Executive for Iowa Machine Shed Restaurants said they go through 400 dozen eggs a week in just the Iowa locations.
“I think it’s gonna get worse before it gets better,” Jeff Grunder said. “And eggs have really gone up. This last week we saw a $20 increase. That price almost doubled in a week, in a week’s time.”
Grunder said that on top of egg prices -- chicken is getting more expensive, making fresh meat hard to come by.
Along with price increases, supply shortages have made processed chicken difficult to find.
Grunder said the bird flu adds stress to an already struggling industry.
For those worried about spreading infection from birds to humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports this strain of bird flu, H5N1, poses a low risk to most humans. There have been no human deaths reported.