- The bird flu outbreak has now contaminated 201 farms in 15 states and has led to the deaths of about 45 million chickens and turkeys, effectively decimating about 10% of the egg-laying hen supply in the U.S. It will take about 18 months to two years to replace the hens.
- Commercial bakers and other food industry entities who use breaker eggs have seen the price of their supply quadrupled to a record high of $2.35 per dozen.
- In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would soon allow egg imports from the Netherlands, the first country in the European Union with this permission. The only other country that can import eggs into the U.S. is Canada.
The situation is looking grim for agribusinesses that distribute eggs and commercial bakers and food manufacturers that regularly use breaker eggs in their products. The American Bakers Association lobbied the USDA and Congress in an attempt to bring in egg imports from the Netherlands. This is due in part because bakers were having to scramble to find suppliers, who began limiting orders and denying new contracts after the outbreak escalated. According to the ABA, bakers were being left with two options: either shut down some lines or all production or find a substitute for eggs.
U.S. chief veterinary officer John Clifford told Reuters that he expects the final death count to be about 50 million birds. In other words, the worst may be over as the virus dies and slows its spread during the hotter summer months. However, the food industry fears that the virus could spread again when the wild birds, which some experts blame for the virus, begin migrating south in the fall.
The USDA has been working on a bird flu vaccine, but the vaccine prepared thus far is not effective enough for approval. It "is not well matched against the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus and doesn't provide enough protection," the Associated Press reported.