Bird Flu Hits California Hard, Affecting Millions Of Chickens

Residents in California are having a difficult time finding eggs on grocery store shelves as the state is hit with an outbreak of the bird flu.

According to the California Poultry Federation, 2024 is the “biggest year of bird flu” in the state of California will be occurring this year, which will hurt prices for the staple food.

“We’ve lost over three million layer chickens, lots of ducks and a million chickens for meat already,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation.

The bird flu was first reported in the Dakotas in April 2022 when two turkey farms tested positive for the disease. The bird flu was also confirmed in a flock of 47,300 turkeys in Jerauld County, South Dakota and in 141,800 birds on a farm in Sanpete County, Utah, last October.

“The biggest thing is the down time. You could be out four to six months. If you don’t have birds, you aren’t making money,” said local farmer Ken Mitchell.

Grocery stores and shoppers across the state are also feeling the impact of the bird flu. Stores like Safeway and Lucky have limited customers to two dozen eggs per visit.

“It’s sad when anything like that starts to happen,” Tara Fortier, a shopper at a Safeway store in Alameda, California, told KTVU. “And then, of course, it really brings it home for all of us that there is an impact. It is a supply chain and a food chain.”

“It’s really hard on our grocery stores,” she added. “It’s really sad for the farmers and then there’s us. You want to go bake something, and you can’t find eggs, or you can’t have eggs for breakfast. So it’s an impact all the way around.”

The California Poultry Federation said that egg prices are expected to rise for at least another month, but that would be based on how long it would take to get the outbreak under control.

In the meantime, some ranchers have implemented lockdowns to prevent the bird flu from spreading to other animals. According to Mattos, once infected animals are either humanely euthanized or die off, racnhers are prohibited from adding more birds to their flocks for at least a month or two.

Ranchers do not have to deal with the clean up alone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture assists with quarentining and costs, according to ABC 10.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that the bird flu was detected in a bobcat, two mountain lions, two fisheries and a raccoon in Northern California.

The egg shortage comes when farmers and grocery stores are still feeling the affects of the pandemic, along with inflation. Grocery stores in other states are also struggling to keep eggs in stock.

An X user from Reno, Nevada reported an egg shortage at the local Walmart.

Another user posted from Boston noted the empty shelves along with the high cost of eggs.