Posted BY: Newsweek

The largest global bird flu outbreak in recorded history has combined with increased costs of fuel, feed, and packaging to create a national egg shortage that’s about to become worse.

Eggs are a staple that, for decades, have easily (and relatively cheaply) been purchased from grocery stores and stocked in kitchens, but they’ve become increasingly hard to come by or way more expensive in recent months. In some stores across the U.S., customers are limited in the number of egg cartons they can buy.

One of the reasons behind the sudden shortage is the outbreak of bird flu that, after starting last year, has killed millions of birds in a dozen countries around the world, including poultry and wild birds. In the U.S., more than 58 million birds in 47 states have been affected, according to the Department of Agriculture.

But disruptions in the supply chain have also played a part in the current national shortage, as have inflation and the increased cost of gasoline and diesel last year. But while inflation was reined in by the end of last year, the price of eggs peaked in December, when the average cost for a dozen eggs in U.S. cities reached $4.25, $1.78 more than a year earlier.

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The future, as Easter approaches, doesn’t seem to bring a solution. The costs of fuel, transportation, feed, and packaging have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. The bird flu, which usually hits during migration in spring only to once again disappear a few months down the line, did not come and go last year. It stayed, and it has given no signs of slowing.

The virus spreading among birds around the world is a new strain that is highly transmissible among animals and incredibly deadly. Millions of birds worldwide have been put in lockdowns to avoid infection, while thousands were culled.

Fewer birds mean fewer eggs, especially as the virus tends to affect older birds rather than the young ones consumed as meat. According to the Department of Agriculture, the culling of birds at commercial facilities in the U.S. has led to an average of a 7.5 percent drop in domestic egg supply each month since the outbreak began last year.

Additionally, in Bozrah, Connecticut, on Saturday, a fire burned for hours at the Hillandale Farms property before being extinguished, killing an unknown number of chickens. Unconfirmed media reports claimed that about 100,000 birds died in the fire.

As spring approaches, together with new wild bird migration, a new wave of infection is likely to hit American poultry.