By Jennifer McEntire, guest blogger
What began as a seemingly minor outbreak of sick birds on a few farms in the upper Midwest has rapidly blossomed into a calamity affecting millions of chickens − and their eggs − across a wide swath of states. A few weeks ago, when a reporter asked me to comment on the avian influenza outbreak, I responded that it was not my area of expertise. I was aware of the outbreak, but hadn’t been following it that closely. My, what a difference a few weeks makes!
The ripple effect of the avian influenza epidemic has become abundantly clear to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Our members who use processed eggs in pasta, bakery products, dressings — all sorts of food products — are concerned that egg supplies are going to become very short. Recent reports indicate that more than 30 million birds have been culled in an attempt to control the spread of the disease. More than half of eggs go to the grocery store, usually sold by the dozen. Nearly a third are pasteurized to kill bacteria that could cause human illness and are then used in processed food products. At this stage, it’s estimated that about 25 percent of the eggs that go toward processing have been impacted. The effect of the disease is immediate and severe.
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