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Bird flu means fewer eggs for commercial operations

Annie Baxter Jun 5, 2015
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The avian flu epidemic wreaking havoc at poultry farms is causing the supply of eggs to tighten. It has cost farmers about 35 million egg-producing hens. The impact on commercial egg buyers is most acute.

“Of that 35 million, about 90 percent or so were producing for the breaker eggs market,” says Brian Moscogiuri, an egg market reporter at the research firm Urner Barry. (Breaker eggs are sold in liquid form; they’re mixed into a lot of commercial baked goods and products.)

“The breakers, the egg processors, the egg product side has felt the brunt of the impact,” Moscogiuri says.

He says prices for breaker eggs are up more than 200 percent since the end of April. That’s causing headaches for food manufacturers, bakeries and restaurants. Some companies reliant on breaker eggs are now buying carton eggs instead, pushing up prices for the rest of us.

McDonald’s says it’s still able to meet its egg need, even though one of its suppliers has been affected by the avian flu outbreak. But the Texas-based chain Whataburger is struggling and is scaling back the hours it serves breakfast.

Experts say businesses reliant on eggs might start importing them or turn to soy-based products.

“We’ll start to see the markets find some substitutes,” says Brian Buhr, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

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