The US bird flu’s latest victim: breakfast sandwiches

You can’t fight a bird flu without losing some eggs.
You can’t fight a bird flu without losing some eggs.
Image: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel
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Avian flu has been the bane of American poultry farmers for months. Three deadly strains have forced them to kill off entire flocks of chickens, turkeys, and other birds to stop infection spreading, and to shut down facilities for costly disinfection procedures. Now consumers are going to start feeling the effects too.

The price of wholesale consumer-grade eggs in the US reached an all-time high of $2.62 per dozen yesterday, according to a commodity researcher quoted by Bloomberg. The nation’s population of egg-laying hens has been decimated. More than 30 million hens have been killed in Iowa alone, and it will be more than a year before egg production returns to normal across the country.

On June 1, the fast-food chain Whataburger announced it will be limiting the hours that customers can order breakfast at its 800 restaurants in 14 states. Instead of serving breakfast taquitos and biscuit sandwiches with scrambled eggs 12 hours a day, Whataburger will offer them for four hours on weekday mornings and six hours on weekend mornings.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman told the New York Times (paywall) that the company anticipates being able to keep up with demand despite the fact that one of its suppliers was hit by the bird flu. “We proactively developed contingent supply plans,” she said. Other large chains, such as IHOP and Taco Bell, are on alert but have not made any changes yet.