By Doug Schmitz
AMES, Iowa – Chicken, egg, and turkey supplies are mostly back to normal after the recent highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak, said an Iowa State University professor of economics.
“While there are a few areas with lingering supply concerns (i.e., larger toms in turkeys), product availability is good,” said Chad Hart, who’s also extension economist and crop markets specialist. “However, prices remain high as inflation really hit as the (avian flu) effects decreased.”
According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, avian flu is a highly contagious, viral disease that affects bird populations.
Kevin Stiles, North Central Poultry Association and Iowa Egg Council CEO and executive director, said the U.S. chicken, egg and turkey supply has definitely been impacted as a result of the avian flu.
“This year, poultry, turkey and egg flocks were lost across the country,” he said. “I can’t answer for turkey and Thanksgiving. However, input costs for chicken and eggs are all at near all-time high levels. Feed costs, labor, construction and building costs, and nearly all input costs are challenging for poultry and egg farmers.”
But he added, “I can’t really say for sure on chicken, but I think supply is gaining quickly. The egg supply is improving, but it will take some months for the egg supply to fully recover.”
Beth Breeding, National Turkey Federation vice president of communications and marketing, said, “In the near term, we are aware of some sporadic product availability disruptions, which have been exacerbated by lingering supply chain issues. These are expected to be short term.”
She said when turkey producers last experienced an avian flu outbreak in 2015, there were brief spot interruptions in the availability of some turkey products, but the interruptions resolved relatively quickly, and the holiday season was not affected.
“That experience bodes well for this fall and beyond,” she said. “We are confident there will be sufficient turkey products available at the holidays.”
Marc Dresner, American Egg Board director of integrated communications, said, “Affordable food matters to everyone, and America’s egg farmers are working around the clock to keep eggs affordable and in plentiful supply. Eggs remain one of the lowest cost, highest-quality proteins available.
“Temporary increases in egg prices reflect many factors,” he added. “Past cases of bird flu have created additional strains on supply in limited situations, but many other factors are affecting egg prices.”
Like many sectors of the economy, he said egg farming is being impacted by inflation and supply chain challenges related to increases in cost and availability of feed and grain, labor and transportation.
“It’s important to know that farmers don’t usually get to choose the price of their eggs,” he said. “Eggs are priced on the commodity market, like corn and wheat.”
Tom Super, National Chicken Council senior vice president of communications, said, “Broilers have not been impacted as much as laying egg hens and turkeys, both of which have much bigger footprints in Iowa,” which is the nation’s top egg-producing state.
“Right now, broiler production is slated to be up a little this year, and we’re not seeing any problems with product availability,” he said.
Breeding agreed, saying there will be an ample supply of turkeys available this holiday season, and consumers will be able to find them at discounted prices as they have during previous holidays.
“The National Turkey Federation always has recommended that consumers shop early during the holiday season to ensure they find the turkey that meets their needs, and they should contact their grocery store in advance of the holiday if they have a special request,” she said.
However, Hart said costs will remain elevated for fall. “Turkey prices will be higher for Thanksgiving. And there will be plenty of turkey available for Thanksgiving, but it may not be in the same size bird as last year (i.e., more smaller birds and fewer larger ones).”