Due to avian flu outbreaks at home and abroad, the price of eggs are going up. In Iowa alone, it’s estimated the outbreak has wiped out 31 million chickens—but as a result, there’s been an increased demand for organic and free range eggs.
“Iowa is the leading egg producer, and in the course of four weeks, we lost half our industry,” Dave Rettig, president of Rembrandt Foods, a large egg producer based in Spirit Lake, said to USA Today. “It came in like a tsunami and decimated the industry,” he said. “And experts expect this virus to come back in the fall. Who knows where it will go? But it could impact the entire country.”
Conventional egg prices went up by a reported 90 percent in April—and with the price gap between conventional eggs and organic and free range eggs being so minimal, consumers are more likely to choose the better quality option.
"That gap of prices is definitely a lot smaller," Nate Vollmer at Trig's in Stevens Point, Wisconsin said to WSAW. "So customers say well, I find I'm going to pay a certain dollar amount for a certain product, and I could get maybe a more organic or more natural product for just a little more increase in price. Maybe I'll do that this time instead."
Organic and free range eggs haven’t been hit nearly as hard by the flu for a few reasons: First, the chickens aren’t caged together, so when one chicken gets it, that doesn’t necessarily mean the whole flock will be infected. Plus, free range chickens eat a much healthier diet and live a much healthier life, which means they’re better able to avoid getting sick.
"If the Flu does get into one bird, it can easily spread to the rest because of the concentration. Where ours hopefully by not being as stressed in such a confinement, that we're going to avoid those problems," Wisconsin farmer Craig Carlson explained to WSAW. "To have a less stressful environment can only make them healthier."
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Eggs image via Shuttershock