Avian Flu Could Raise Your Grocery Bill

Roughly two years into this global pandemic, there are loads of inconvenient and expensive things that we’ve come to expect – event cancellations, travel restrictions, testing requirements, and maybe the biggest “every day” problem – battling supply chain delays and cost increases. Over the last two years, it has been increasingly difficult to get everything on our grocery lists (especially at the same store!) and nearly impossible to get it all on our standard grocery budget. For those of us who eat poultry and eggs, that problem is about to get significantly worse. Somehow, for once, COVID-19 is not to blame. There’s another “highly pathogenic” disease swooping into coops across the United States – a new strain of the avian flu. So far it has been identified in a flock of broiler chickens in Kentucky, a “backyard” flock in Virginia, and in one extremely large commercial flock in Indiana. Unfortunately, so far, they’ve lost over 29,000 birds to this new strain.

Avian flu (or “bird flu”) has hit the egg and poultry industry this hard, or harder, before. In 2015, the average price of eggs went up by a whopping 61%, while the cost of turkey went up by 75%. Yikes. Understanding how this affected the egg and poultry industry last time, we know that we can expect the cost of groceries, like just about everything else, to skyrocket again soon, though only time will tell by exactly how much.

This could be a good time to try out a vegan diet or finally work on getting your high cholesterol under control, but that leads us into another important food supply question- will the increasing cost of eggs and poultry increase the pressure on the plant-based foods industry, causing those prices to go up as well? My money is on “yes,” which is disheartening to say the least. The plant-based foods industry is already sold at a ridiculous mark-up because many people who feel strongly about that lifestyle will pay for it, regardless. I imagine that even if a price increase does not organically happen, that the increased interest will give brands even more power to charge whatever they want.

Now, I’m not saying you should panic and go out and buy stacks upon stacks of Tofurkey. It might, however, be a good idea to start looking for other ways to incorporate protein into your diet. Mashed up chickpeas, when seasoned correctly, can be a delightful replacement for egg OR chicken salad. I can’t say I’m not worried at all, but I also know that we are resilient and resourceful people and we will figure it out.

What do you think? Will you try out some plant-based swap outs or cough up the extra cash for what little poultry is left? If you do make the swap, what kinds of recipes will you try?