After the loss of 43 million egg-producing chickens in 15 states from 3 strains of avian influenza, higher egg prices and lower supplies are affecting everyone. Some shoppers are already seeing a price increase in grocery stores and restaurants are coming up with new strategies to deal with the shortage of eggs. Some (like Texas-based Whataburger) are reducing their serving hours for breakfast, while others are making substitutions on the menu. Restaurant management companies that operate cafes at Disneyland and universities are coming up with new recipes using tofu and other products as substitutes.
Most of the layer hens affected were in the Upper Midwest.
The loss equals about 12 percent of the nation’s egg-laying capacity. Iowa is the biggest U.S. egg-producing state, and the flu there alone has wiped out 24 million chickens, or 41 percent of its commercial hen population.
In Minnesota, the devastation of the turkey industry — the nation’s largest — has gotten the most attention. But the state also is the eighth-largest U.S. egg producer, and four hen farms have been stricken here, erasing 3.6 million birds, or 32 percent of the state’s egg-laying capacity. Overall in Minnesota, more than 100 farms have been hit, 90 of them turkey farms, wiping out 4.7 million birds or 10 percent of annual turkey production.
Since eggs are an essential ingredient for cakes, doughnuts and pastries, that means bakers are high on the list of businesses affected by the bird flu. Others are developing egg-free mayonnaise for salads and other prepared foods.