The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services announced yesterday that “all North Carolina poultry shows and public sales will be suspended from August 15th to January 15th due to the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza.” Although the virus has not yet been found on the East Coast, the state is already taking precautions to protect both commercial and private flocks from this disease. This decision will shut down many exhibits regularly enjoyed at state and county fairs. It may be disappointing, but protecting poultry from this highly contagious virus is important for many reasons. The spread across the U.S. has caused egg prices to rise over 50% in the last month and to rise currently at a rate of 5 cents per day due to a lower number of hens to produce them, as reported by WECT. This is also causing egg based dishes in restaurants to become more expensive and for the prices of items on the market that contain eggs as an ingredient to rise.
In addition to the effects of the virus, egg prices have been rising as new regulations are changing the way poultry is raised in the US. According to CBS News, California laws now require that poultry be raised with more space so they can actually walk around and stretch their wings. This affects California and all states that sell eggs to California. Farmers have a choice of buying larger cages or placing fewer birds in cages they already have. This is causing frustration for many farmers for reasons such as space not being used to full capacity and a new need to install heaters in the buildings. It has also been argued that more space for the birds will cause more injuries because they are more likely to run, perhaps causing a broken leg or wing. There is a major concern that families struggling financially will have a difficult time replacing such an inexpensive protein source if egg prices become too high. On the other hand, animal rights activists feel that these regulations are less cruel to the animals; some even argue that the 70% more space they are being given is not enough. Even the popular coffee chain Starbucks has agreed to completely stop the use of eggs from caged poultry in their products due to animal cruelty. Both sides have compelling arguments, but time will show the results, both negative and positive, of these new regulations.