It Ain’t Over Yet: Bird Flu Aftershocks Will Keep Egg, Whole Turkey Prices High

Though the bird flu crisis might be over now, the toll it’s taken on egg and poultry producers in the U.S. will continue for quite some time. Industry experts say egg prices will climb higher than previously predicted, and stay high through 2016. Meanwhile, frozen wholesale turkeys will also cost more this Thanksgiving than last year.

After 48 million chickens and turkeys were destroyed this year during the avian flu outbreak, limited supplies of baby poultry and not enough space to house them could make it tough for farmers to rebuild their poultry populations, reports Reuters.

Egg prices are going to tick up higher than experts thought, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and could stay high into 2016, while frozen turkeys will likely cost 19% more than they did last year for Thanksgiving.

It’s been two months since the last case of flu was reported, but poultry producers say it could take two years or so of rebuilding to get their flocks back to where they used to be.

Many Iowa chicken sites have yet to get approval from the USDA to bring in new replacement birds, further slowing rebuilding efforts until farms can bring in egg-laying chickens this fall. Many poultry sites will probably remain closed until the end of this year, because of the time it takes to fully and properly clean farms to make sure the virus has been eradicated.

Things could get bad again if wild ducks spread the flu during their seasonal migrations as well.

The USDA hiked its estimate for wholesale frozen turkeys in the second quarter to $1.28 to $1.36 per pound, up from an average of about $1.14 a year earlier. Though turkeys often go for a discount to drive holiday sales, you might not get as much of a deal as previous years.

“Some chains might not discount them quite as heavily,” USDA agricultural economist Dave Harvey told Reuters.

And as we reported previously egg prices are at a record high, with wholesale shell egg prices in the Midwest hitting $2.88 a dozen in the first week of August — almost twice the price a year earlier. These prices have restaurants and stores cutting back on eggs: in June, Texas-based Whataburger trimmed its breakfast hours to cut down on the number of eggs it went through, McDonald’s could end up putting the kibosh on its all-day breakfast menu expansion, while Dunkin’ Donuts has already canceled a major promotion it had planned because of tight supplies.

Bird flu aftershocks to drive U.S. turkey, egg prices higher [Reuters]

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