Economists Keeping Close Eye on Egg and Chicken Prices as Avian Flu Spreads

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Eggs and chicken. Ag economists like Iowa State's Dr. Dermot Hayes say one of these products is about to hit you a little harder in the pocket book while the other will not.

"We've killed a significant portion of Iowa egg laying hens,” Dr. Hayes told Channel 13 News.

Iowa produces more egg laying hens than any state in the country. However, roughly 21 of the state's 60 million have been euthanized due to the avian flu.

Dr. Hayes says the effects will be felt in the grocery store in the next couple of weeks as eggs that would now be hitting the market were never laid.

"A consensus of economists who work in the area is that for every million birds we lose, we'll see about a 1.6 percent price increase. We're looking at between a 20-30 percent increase in retail prices,” Dr. Hayes said.

To do the math, 20-30 percent on a $2 carton of eggs could range from a 40-60 cent increase in prices.

Hayes says on a product like eggs, most consumers won't think twice about paying the difference.

"Americans are amazingly stubborn when it comes to eggs,” Dr. Hayes said.

As for chicken meat, Steve Meyer, the president of Paragon Economics says people shouldn't expect to pay more anytime soon.

“Right now, the avian flu has had very little impact on broiler prices,” Meyer said.

Iowa, the main state affected by the avian flu, is a small player in the broiler industry, the type of bird that produces meat.

The main states for broiler chickens are in the southeast.

"Georgia is No. 1 and Alabama is No. 2,” Meyer told Channel 13 News.

So far, both states have steered clear of the avian flu, however, that could change later this year, and so could prices.

"It's certainly a concern this fall. Migratory birds are suspected to be one of the reasons we've seen the flu spread in the upper corn-belt. They're eventually going to turn around and go south this fall,” Meyer said.

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