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Bird flu outbreaks helping drive egg prices up in Massachusetts

Eggs for sale at Big Y supermarket in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Karen Brown
/
NEPM
Eggs for sale at Big Y supermarket in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Shoppers at Massachusetts grocery stores have seen egg prices jump this year. A key reason for the increase is the deadliest outbreak of bird flu in U.S. history.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 57 million birds, including egg-laying hens, have been affected.

Steve Vendemia is the president of Hillandale Farms in Connecticut, which has three egg-producing facilities in the state and supplies the Massachusetts market. The company also produces eggs in Maine.

He said a Massachusetts law that took effect at the start of this year requiring only cage-free eggs be sold could have raised the price about 25 cents for a dozen eggs.

But the majority of the jump consumers are seeing is caused by fewer birds available nationwide to lay eggs.

He said Hillandale's farms don't produce as many as customers want.

"I have to go out on the open markets and buy those excess needs because this time of the year, the demand is so great," he said.

Vendemia said while Hillandale's Connecticut operations have not had any flu outbreaks this year, a company facility in Ohio did and four million birds were lost.

He said that getting new birds into production can't happen quickly.

"Once a complex is shut down, it has to be depopulated and that process for repopulating can take upwards of a year," Vendemia said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, egg prices rose 149% between November of 2021 and November of this year.

Vendemia said he expects egg prices could drop a bit after the holidays when demand is lower.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.