A deadly virus has wrecked the nations egg supply chain, unprecidented 60 million laying hens culled
By Andrew Harris
As predicted for many years, the unnatural conditions of an industrial egg farm are not sustainable and will lead to disease, price spikes, product shortages, and mass death.
A new bird flu, not yet “jumped” to humans, has hit the United States top egg producers like never before. In order to keep the bird flu from becoming a human health crisis, the government will have forced over sixty million laying hens to be destroyed.
Besides creating mass death, the virus has caused a supply chain shock. Eggs, if available, will soon be pushing $10/dozen in many places. Egg substitute recipes fill social media feeds, suddenly the backyard henhouse is the envy of the neighborhood. Life without cheap eggs is gone as we know it, and unlikely to return.
For decades, American have enjoyed .$99/dozen eggs and paid $3/dozen for good organic, pastured eggs. That price slowly crept toward $2/dozen and $5/dozen for organic during the last five years, partly due to previous bird virus outbreaks, partly due to general inflation, mostly due to the true cost of producing eggs.
This downward spiral in the egg market has been forecasted by many. You can’t expect good things when you put 100,000 chickens into a warehouse, feed them a ultra-high protein diet, and force 18-24hrs of light on them to maximize egg output. Sure you will get a lot of eggs, most hens can be “maxed out” at one egg every 20 hours under industrial conditions. A free range hen lays an egg every 24-27 hours at peak production, with much less in the winter months. Industrial hens can keep that laying rate up for about 18 months before they are “spent” and then “recycled.” Some free range hens continue to lay almost daily until they are over five years old when conditions are right.
The industrial scale egg farmers have reached the breaking point, the law of diminishing returns to the extreme. Many of the affected factory farms, who had to euthanize hundreds of thousands of birds, now must wait until a new generation comes of age. Chickens don’t start laying eggs until about 6 months of age, maybe a little earlier with hormone and light treatment. This means that it will be July before many farms will have any product to sell, assuming all goes well between now and then….
The next viral outbreak, or salmonella recall, or mystery disease is just around the corner. These mass production farms are not changing their ways: They are just planning to use more anti-biotics, more anti-parasite sprays, more advanced air filtration for warehouses packed full of chickens.
Why do they not embrace pasturing hens, organic practices, and natural laying cycles? Money.
You can’t produce $.99/dozen eggs without a warehouse, massive lights, chemicals, high protien feed, and a massive number of juvenile female chickens. No barnyard, no roosters, no nest full of eggs, just a massive factory where hens lay eggs directly onto a conveyor belt assembly line. The eggs are washed, sterilized, inspected, and packed by farmers in biohazard suits.
When you sit down for a nice Sunday breakfast of eggs and toast; minds are trained to think we are eating a wholesome meal, provided by farmers. The truth is only about 1% of America eats that kind of egg, and have been happy to pay $5-8 dollars a dozen for years. 99% eat a egg that is mass produced indoors, a product that it creates the perfect environment for viral outbreaks.
The human Covid-19 viral outbreak set the stage for this recent tragedy. Like all businesses, egg manufactuaring facilities have faced a labor shortage and inflation. The lack of staffing doesn’t help the process of harvesting eggs from hundreds of thousands of hens. A major part of the work includes spreading lime, sanitizing, and cleaning. A simple Google search of bird flu outbreaks at egg production facilities since the Covid-19 pandemic paints the picture of tragedy after tragedy.
As the corporations who mass produce eggs plan on how to adapt and maximize profits in the future, consumers(you) must also plan and adapt. Consider these three great ways to combat the future of the “incredible, edible egg:”
1- Just stop eating them!! I haven’t eaten an egg in years and plenty of substitutes for baking exist for those worried about fluffy muffins. Considering the cholesterol and chemical traces, you might be better off.
2- Find a local egg farmer. Many small hen houses dot our landscape and many of these little farms sell the eggs. They maybe even cheaper than the store at this point, but certainly fresher and more nutritious than warehoused eggs. All farmers love repeat, reliable business. You can save money and have a steady supply with the right relationship with a real farmer.
3 – Buy in bulk . Eggs keep for three to five weeks in the fridge. Look for carton prices, go to farmers markets, search for farmers near you online.
In the end, the answer to this food crisis, and those sure to arrive in the future is to KNOW YOUR FARMER. From eggs to vegetables to amazing farm products like maple syrup, you will not regret finding a local farm to support.
Interested? Here are a few links to local farmers and markets:
1/19/23 – Katya and Jim of Living Cultures Farm currently have an abundance of eggs. If you are in need of eggs, please email them at [email protected] or text 607-427-6006 and they can put them in the farm stand for you to pick up.