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Bird flu to drive U.S. turkey and egg prices higher

Staff writer |
As a result of the shortages and the loss of more than 48 million chickens and turkeys to the disease, egg prices will climb higher than previously expected this year and remain high through 2016.

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This is according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Frozen wholesale turkey prices are expected to be up to 19 percent higher for the key Thanksgiving holiday than they were a year ago.

Chicken and turkey producers say the egg and poultry industry faces up to two years of rebuilding to fully replace flocks.

Almost two months have passed since the last case of flu was detected, and farmers whose flocks were wiped out are now cleaning their barns before bringing in new birds. The USDA has yet to give the clearance that would allow any chicken sites in Iowa, the top egg-producing state, to bring in replacements.

Minnesota and Iowa turkey farms, infected before some of the chicken farms, have begun restocking thanks to a faster cleanup process. Unlike laying hens, turkeys are not kept in cages, but it won't be quick enough to avert sticker shock come November's holiday.

The USDA, in a monthly supply and demand report on August 12, raised its estimate for wholesale frozen turkey prices in the fourth quarter to $1.28 to $1.36 per pound, up from an average of about $1.14 a year earlier.

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