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Egg prices are rising again. An outbreak of bird flu could make things worse

Originally Published: 03 APR 24 12:17 ET

By Bryan Mena, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Egg prices have now been steadily rising for months, and your omelette could become even more expensive as poultry farms around the country deal with an outbreak of bird flu.

The average price of a dozen Grade A large eggs was $3 in February, according to the latest Consumer Price Index, up from around $2 in the fall. While egg prices are down from a record $4.82 in January 2023 — after a widespread bird flu outbreak ravaged farms in the prior year — they’re now at the highest level since April 2023.

And it may not get better anytime soon.

Cal-Maine Foods, America’s largest egg producer, said earlier this week that it culled about 1.6 million hens and 337,000 young chickens after some tested positive for a “highly pathogenic avian influenza” at one of the company’s facilities in Texas, Cal-Maine said in a release. The company produces brands such as Farmhouse Eggs, Sunups, Sunny Meadow, Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’ Lakes eggs.

“Production at the facility has temporarily ceased,” the company said. “[The virus] is still present in the wild bird population and the extent of possible future outbreaks, with heightened risk during the migration seasons, cannot be predicted.”

As egg prices reached a record early last year, Cal-Maine, which controls about 20% of the market, reported a few months later that its revenue doubled and profit surged 718%.

The culling represented about 3.6% of the company’s total flock as of early March. Cal-Maine did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on what the bird flu outbreak means for its egg prices.

Bird flu has been detected at other farms across the country. Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced Tuesday that it found evidence of bird flu at a commercial poultry facility in Ionia County. Last month, the virus was detected in animals at farms in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota.

“The current risk to the public remains minimal,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in a statement. “It is important for us as an industry to maintain a high level of vigilance. State and national agencies will continue to provide updated guidance as developments warrant.”

If egg producers aren’t able to keep up with demand because they’ve had to cull animals due to bird flu, then that can raise prices. Companies, however, do try to mitigate those effects, but it’s unclear if that would be enough to prevent price hikes altogether.

“Cal-Maine Foods is working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers,” the company said.

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Tyaun Marshburn

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