The avian flu is continuing to spread across the Midwest. The crisis has analysts predicting dire consequences for breakfast, with the price of eggs set to skyrocket.
The flu outbreak is one of the largest in U.S. history, hitting farms in 16 states and forcing authorities to cull about 40 million birds, according to the Huffington Post.
Iowa Representative Peter King explained it’s worse than people thought.
“It’s not only a financial calamity but a huge logistics problem that we’ve never faced before. Nobody anticipated a disaster of this magnitude.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has earmarked $413 million to compensate farmers who have lost their flocks in the flu, according to USA Today.
Forbes quoted a forecast from Goldman Sachs saying consumers will pay 75 percent more for their eggs because of the avian flu. The situation already has some taking extreme steps, like importing eggs or searching out egg alternatives.
Tom Elam, from ag consultancy company FarmEcon, explained that importing would be a first.
“The U.S. has never imported any significant amount of eggs, because we’ve always been a very low-cost producer. Now, that’s no longer the case.”
The strong dollar also makes importation look more promising, but egg alternatives could also provide some relief. Food processing company Archer Daniels Midland has been receiving phone calls from major consumers about their plant-based substitutes.
Cory Martin from the American Bakers Association says suppliers are already cutting back.
“We have members whose egg suppliers are already cutting back how much they’ll receive in the next few weeks, while others are not getting any. They’re looking for eggs everywhere. And the problem is, too, there’s not enough egg substitute available right now to make up for the demand.”
The avian flu is also a risk to industries outside food production, like pharmaceuticals. Companies like Merck keep their own flocks to use the eggs for vaccine manufacturing. A flu outbreak in those facilities would be a different kind of disaster, but officials insist they’ve upped their biosecurity measures.
Still, the avian flu outbreak has a few silver linings. Unlike the bird flu in Asia, the disease has yet to infect human populations.
Likewise, NBC News reports that the crisis may be nearing an end as the summer temperatures start to kick in. Dr. Jack Shere from the USDA explained we just need one good summer day to kill off the virus.
“When we get above 65 it starts to dry the virus out. (At) 85 the virus is practically dead.”
Still, it will be a while until places like Minnesota warm up enough.
Until that day comes, the avian flu appears to have momentum, and researchers aren’t sure how many more birds will have to die.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]