Could Bird Flu Wipe Out Chickens and Eggs?

Which came first — the chicken or the egg? In the case of bird flu, it may not be a question of which came first but which is going out last. Bird flu, also called avian influenza in 2015 wiped out at least 48 million chickens, turkeys, ducks and an unknown number of wild birds in the United States alone. This caused the price of eggs alone to more than double, impacting most of the food industry that relies on eggs in products from mayonnaise to influenza vaccines. Experts are stating that it is possible that an outbreak of bird flu could be so bad that it wipes out the poultry and egg industries.

Problems With Factory Farming

Animal rights and food safety inspectors have been warning the agricultural industry for decades about the problems inherent in factory farming. In order to give the market cheap chicken eggs, hens are crammed into buildings and, even if they have the run of the building, never go outside unless it is to a slaughterhouse. Unfortunately, sunshine and fresh air help deter viruses. Birds, on average, need to defecate every ten minutes. That’s a lot of guano to clean up. Factory farming cannot do so efficiently. Birds usually live in filthy conditions covered in their own waste. They die in a year or two, when chickens normally live to about six years old.

Problems With Disposing Corpses

Another large health and logistic problem raised by the 2015 bird flu outbreak is just how to dispose of millions of dead birds? Arguments range from how to most quickly euthanize birds (because bird flu is incurable) to how to dispose of the carcasses. Many states do not allow burial as this can harbor disease in soil and rainwater runoff. Incineration is a surprisingly slow and inefficient process. Turning the dead birds into food is out of the question, since eating diseased meat can be illegal in some areas and exposes previously uninfected areas to infection.

Rise In Veganism

Concerns for health, animal welfare and conserving natural resources are thought to have lead to the rise of veganism in America. Once a scorned outsider group, there are now an estimated 16 million American vegans choosing to eat foods like Mayonnaise without eggs.