Bird Flu Sends Prices Skyrocketing

The bird flu that has swept Wisconsin and Minnesota, killing millions of chickens and turkeys, might finally be affecting U.S. food companies. Big names like McDonald’s and Panera say they still have a steady enough supply that they’ll be able to serve their customers for the foreseeable future, but some are reportedly on the lookout for new egg suppliers or alternative products:

Post Holdings, which uses eggs in its products and sells processed eggs to others, recently said the flu crisis would slice about $20 million out of its cash flow — and that was before the Agriculture Department confirmed an outbreak among 1.7 million hens at another facility that supplies the company.

And on Thursday, Hampton Creek, a small business that makes plant-based egg substitutes, shipped tens of thousands of pounds of its Just Mix powdered egg substitute to General Mills, which uses egg products in things like its Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake Mix and a variety of refrigerated cookie doughs.

Nor are companies alone being affected: the latest figures have egg prices going up. According to the WSJ,  the past month has seen the wholesale price of so-called “breaker eggs” almost triple, while the kind of eggs one might buy in a supermarket have seen cost increases of 85 percent in the Midwest. One industry expert calls the jumps “completely unprecedented.” The Journal also reports that some companies might be completely wiped out by the virus and that its effects could be felt for years down the line. All told, the bird flu outbreak in the Midwest, though it never really posed a direct threat to human health, may have a much more severe impact than most of us expected.

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