Chicken & Egg Shortages Could Continue as Bird Flu Ravages Tyson Flocks

Close up of chicken sitting in hay, with freshly laid eggs.
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A highly infectious strain of avian influenza is spreading, putting poultry farmers on high alert and threatening to keep poultry supplies tight. The bird flu has recently been detected at a Kentucky farm that supplies U.S. chicken producer Tyson Foods. The economic repercussions for the wider industry remain yet to be seen, though Tyson has relayed that — as of now — the outbreak remains contained and an isolated incident.

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“Once a flock gets it, it’s a death sentence,” Russ Whitman, senior vice president at commodity researcher Urner Barry, explained to Bloomberg. “It’s all about the spread and we simply don’t know enough about that. It’s a wait and see.”  

“The buyers of the world are already keenly aware of the challenges they’re up against in 2022 in just getting the supply that they need,” he added.

The company is operating under heightened biosecurity as a result of the outbreak and all Tyson-owned flocks are tested for the virus before leaving the farm, the company said in a statement. 

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“Because the affected farm in Kentucky is only one of the thousands of farms that raise chickens for our company, the situation is not expected to impact our overall chicken production levels,” Tyson said in a statement, per Bloomberg.

If the virus reaches more commercial poultry farms, the price of eggs, chicken and turkey could be impacted. 

Consumers have already been feeling the effect of surging food prices. Nexstar reported that the Bureau of Labor Statistics found food prices were up 7% in Jan. 2022 compared to the previous year.

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“It’s definitely considered a period of high risk now that we have a confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the commercial poultry industry,” said Dr. Denise Heard, a poultry veterinarian and vice president of research for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, Nexstar reported. “I feel positive that we can tackle this situation better and I have my fingers crossed that this will be an isolated case, however, I would hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.”

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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