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article imageLiquid egg shortage will soon affect your pocketbook

By Karen Graham     May 15, 2015 in Business
The avian bird flu epidemic has left farmers in 15 states with mountainous piles of dead chickens and turkeys to get rid of, and as was expected, consumers with a lot less money in their wallets.
People in the United States have read about the avian flu and the destructive path it has left in parts of Asia and elsewhere in the world, but now our poultry farmers are grappling with the avian flu epidemic, a livestock health crisis of proportions never seen before.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reporting that 15 states are now confirmed to have been affected by the H5N2 avian flu virus. Iowa, which supplies one-fifth of the nation's eggs, has been hit the hardest, with 40 percent of its egg-laying chickens gone.
The New York Times is saying that "almost every day," the USDA confirms another one-hundred thousand or more birds must be destroyed. Sometimes the figure is a million or more. On Thursday, South Dakota was added to the list of states affected by the virus, with a chicken farm with 1.3 million chickens in the Eastern part of the state reporting the infection.
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The price of eggs in America
It is not a matter of the price of eggs going up, but it's liquid eggs that are becoming scarce. Consumers may be surprised to learn there are many products, from mayonnaise to ice cream that use liquid eggs in the production of the products.
It takes time to rebuild a flock of laying hens, and analysts say we can expect to see an increase in the price of eggs, especially liquid eggs. A commodity analyst at Urner Barry told Bloomberg, "We're starting to see some shortages because, for some of the companies that have lost a large number of these birds, there's no fallback."
The analyst added, "You can't just go and say, 'Oh, I need 2 million eggs today, where can I get them?' We're just not able to replace them that easily."
Liquid eggs are called "breaker eggs" in the business. These eggs are cracked and sold to wholesale bakeries and companies like McDonald's. The price of breaker eggs have more than doubled in the past few weeks, and it is all because of the worst ever avian flu epidemic the U.S. has ever seen.
Liquid eggs are processed before being put into containers.
Liquid eggs are processed before being put into containers.
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The USDA is giving us a dismal forecast
The USDA has reversed its earlier prediction of an increase in egg production made in April, instead forecasting a drop in production due to the avian flu outbreak. The avian flu will put a limit on the supply of turkeys this year, but the USDA says supplies will still be higher than they were in 2014.
As for the price of breaker-eggs, the price of breaker-eggs reached $1.55 per dozen Wednesday, the highest ever recorded. Again, analysts are saying that because Iowa is the center of the country's highest egg production, prices and supplies to the consumer will be impacted.
Remember that mayonnaise? Food producers are rushing to grab up any liquid eggs left on the market, and turning to shelled eggs as a backup. This will impact on the price of a number of products consumers purchase at the grocery store, such as cake mixes, bread, ice cream, and a huge number of other products.
We can add to this gloomy forecast. The clean up from this epidemic will not happen overnight. It takes time to disinfect barns and any place poultry has been kept, and it takes time to raise chicks into adult laying hens. The full scale of the losses caused by the avian flu epidemic have yet to be fully accessed, but we will be impacted.
More about egg shortage, liquid eggs, mayonaise, Iowa, USDA
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