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The U.S. is facing an egg-tastrophe

Sally Herships May 22, 2015
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You may not know it, but we have an egg-tastrophe on our hands. Thanks to bird flu, an estimated 31 million chickens have been killed — that’s 10 percent of the country’s egg-producing poultry.

Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg department at Urner Barry, a commodity market news reporting service, says prices for wholesale eggs have almost doubled, and it’s the wholesale market that’s going to feel the pinch of higher prices first.

Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst for companies like McDonald’s, which relies heavily on eggs, notes that the shortage may be difficult.

“About 25 percent of McDonald’s sales rest in breakfast,” he says.

And it’s not clear where companies like McDonald’s can turn for cheaper eggs. Certainly not from neighbors such as Canada and Mexico — those countries were already buying eggs from the U.S. While there is talk of getting egg-sports from the EU, Pesciotta says there’s a problem. In the U.S., producers wash and refrigerate eggs to protect against salmonella. But the EU vaccinates its chickens and says washing can damage shells, making eggs more vulnerable to bacteria.

Pesciotta says that unless the U.S. and the EU can agree on egg-zactly what makes eggs safe, we may have an egg-pocolypse.

“They produce to their set of rules. We produce to our set of rules,” he said, “they’re different.”

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