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Avian flu inflates egg prices, Michigan eggs in high demand

Posted at 11:17 PM, Jun 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-03 23:17:05-04

West Michigan - The avian flu outbreak is impacting industries from the farm to the breakfast table throughout the Midwest.

The Center for Disease Control reports it's been detected in 20 states nationwide. 15 of which are dealing with outbreaks impacting domestic poultry or captive birds, leading to the slaughter of more than 44 million chickens and turkeys.

The good news is, Michigan isn't one of them at this point. In fact, it's our eggs we're told that are in demand in other states to help during the crisis but it's forcing businesses to reach deep in their pockets in order to keep eggs on the menu.

Places like the Omelette Shoppe, Sundance Bar and Grill, Beltline Bar, Grand Coney, and others are all dealing with suppliers who they say are dealing with increased demand coming from out of state, upping prices in the process.

Trudy Billow, Sundance Bar and Grill Concept Lead, understands avian flu is a main concern for the food industry.

"We'll get creative and let out chefs and kitchen managers come up with some great features and limited-time offers to balance it out," said Billow.

Saying egg prices have sky-rocketed for them after Iowa declared a state of emergency over the bird flu earlier this week.

"They've doubled and they're tripling and they're gonna stay on the rise for quite some time," said Billow.

Normally, eggs are a low cost ingredient. But the price hike is creating a new cost for business owners.

Jeff Lobdell, President of Restaurant Partners, said it's all about supply and demand.
"What's happening in Iowa is affecting the whole country," said Lobdell. "The price that we're paying is skyrocketing. "Eggs are a low product cost so the fact that the price is doubling or tripling is terrible for the restaurant to take on."

Michigan Ranks 7th in the Nation in egg production according to the Michigan Allied Poultry Industry, and many of them right now are needed elsewhere.

"Since the food quality in eggs is so good, everybody is now buying Michigan eggs," said Billow. "So that's why we're looking at the price increase too."

Steven Miller, Director at the Center for Economic Analysis at Michigan State, said the price of eggs have increased by 50%, which is a price some business models are covering for the consumer at least for now.

"It really depends on how well we can isolate these flocks," said Miller. "But of course, it's not just the flocks, it's in the wild so other birds carry this as well. But if it does wipe out a flock, chickens are pretty high turn over, about ten to 11 weeks. It takes about 11 weeks for a chicken to hatch to become a fryer."

It's not just Michigan that's being tapped by some to help with the demand of eggs right now. On Monday, the USDA said it would soon allow pastuarized egg imports from the Netherlands.
Here at home, some business owners we talked to say they may have to increase menu prices or cut back on the hours they serve breakfast if the outbreak continues.