Friday, March 24

Avian Flu: Shortage of eggs and gold prices in the US: up to more than 11 dollars a dozen

Avian flu and high inflation create an unprecedented scenario in supermarkets and restaurants

An empty shelf in a Los Angeles supermarket.PAUL SCARPELLINI


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Nancy, a cashier at a supermarket in East Los Angeles, had a hard time coming up with a coherent explanation for the total vacuum in the section where eggs are normally found. “We don’t know what’s going on, but we don’t have a single one left.”. It is something that I have never seen in all the years that I have been working here,” he told EL MUNDO by way of apology. The scene, in fact, has been repeating itself in recent weeks throughout the country: egg shortages, prices through the roof and an unprecedented crisis fueled by a strong outbreak of bird flu.

The situation began to worsen in February of last year. The first confirmed cases of bird flu coincided with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, creating what some US farmers have described as the perfect storm. Chickens began to die at high speed and the rise in the price of gasoline, with crude oil well over $100 a barrel, shot up everything else, including food.

Today the crisis seems to have reached its peak. In December the value of a dozen eggs increased by 11% compared to November, according to data from the Department of Agriculture, and in a single year it has shot up 60%. In New York, they pay up to $11.49 per dozen and in Hawaii $10.99, a situation that could continue to worsen if the epidemic on farms is not stopped.

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According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 57.8 million birds have died in the 50 states of the country in less than a year by bird flu, with more than 5,821 wild birds detected carrying the virus. That is where the danger mainly comes from, contact with poultry that have caused the death of chickens at high speed. There are several States that are recommending keeping chickens in closed facilities to avoid contagion.

There have been critics of the industrial production system on farms, convinced that nothing good could come of putting thousands of chickens in an industrial warehouse, feed them a saturated protein diet and expose them to between 18 and 24 hours of light so that the laying of eggs was even greater. Viruses and contagions had to come, along with the end of the days when buying a dozen was a dollar and a few cents.

For others, however, the crisis has provided an opportunity. Many are the farmers who have exhausted all their production in a matter of days or have it committed for the next few months. jess mendez, owner of a farm in Arroyo Grande, California, has doubled sales at the Los Angeles flea market he attends every week. He has raised prices to eight dollars a dozen for the increase in gasoline and the minimum wage in California in 2023 to $15.50. And yet they take them out of their hands. “I could sell them for 10 dollars and people would buy them from me, but I don’t want to abuse”, He says. “The current situation is helping me to be able to pay my workers better.”

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At a gas station in the San Fernando Valley the owner, Scott, has stopped selling them for weeks. He says they are impossible to find and that even if he were to get hold of them, they would be too expensive for his mostly Hispanic customers. He is filling the space with bottles of milk and orange juice. Deborah Ruiz, owner of Sunset Ranch Egg, an egg distributor for restaurants and hotels in Van Nuys, California, says that has not seen a situation like it in the more than 50 years that his family has been involved in the business.

It’s the same stance some supermarkets in Northern California have taken. “There are some establishments that are refusing to sell them at those prices”, corroborates Bill Matos to ABC, president of the Poultry Association of California. “They don’t even want eggs in the supermarket, which seems a bit strange to me. But I guess they’d rather not sell them than have to surprise the consumer with such a high price.”

Others are simply not being able to take the pressure. Pastry shops in various parts of the country have had to close their doors not wanting to raise the prices of their products any further. They refuse to charge up to five dollars for a cookie. Porto’s, the chain of Cuban pastry shops in Los Angeles, is holding its own thanks to its large turnover. “Everyone is suffering”, tells EL MUNDO Beatriz Porto, one of the owners. “We are trying by all means to make people happy and not increase prices, but it is very difficult. We are working more and charging less.” In specialized restaurants like the Egg Shop, with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the menu has been 10% more expensive for a few days.

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The current crisis has also increased the number of people who They choose to set up a small corral in the backyard of their houses.Although in many cases the installation, the chickens and the feed are more expensive than the eggs they lay. Meanwhile, on farms there is a rush to recover birds lost to bird flu to increase production, with no clear signs yet of when the worst crisis of this type since 2014 will be shelved.

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