Texas Egg Plant Halts Production Due to Bird Flu

Egg production | Image by tianyu wu/Getty Images

The largest egg production facility in the United States announced Tuesday that it had halted egg production after detecting avian influenza in its chickens.

The plant is located on the Texas and New Mexico border in the Texas Panhandle, where bird flu has previously been detected in cattle. The shutdown will likely cause a fresh spike in egg prices, which have increased in recent weeks.

Ridgeland, Mississippi-based Cal-Maine Foods operates the plant. The company called the news of the detection “devastating news for Cal-Maine and the entire Panhandle region,” reported NBC 5 DFW.

“The company continues to work closely with federal, state and local government officials and focused industry groups to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and effectively manage the response,” the company said in a press release. “Cal-Maine Foods is working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers.”

Egg prices had already climbed to a national average of $2.99 a dozen ahead of Easter, as previously reported by DX. In 2022, when the first outbreak of the deadly H5N1-variant was detected, egg prices shot up to a national average of over $4.00 a dozen. Tens of millions of hens were killed or euthanized as a result of the virus.

The virus is believed to be carried by wild migratory birds that infect flocks through nasal drippings and close interaction. The virus can infect water troughs and watering holes, leading to infections in cattle, birds, and, in rare cases, humans. The first person to contract the disease in Texas was identified on April 1, as reported by The Dallas Express.

It is believed the person contracted the virus after coming into close contact with infected cattle.

“The patient, who experienced eye inflammation as their only symptom, was tested for flu late last week with confirmatory testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend,” read an announcement from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Avian flu is not typically fatal to humans and can be treated with antiviral drugs, but it is fatal to birds. Several dairy ranches in the Texas Panhandle have reported finding dead migratory birds in recent weeks. Cases of bird flu have also been identified in Ohio, New York, and North Carolina, among other locations in the U.S. in the last month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The latest avian flu outbreak is yet another blow to the residents of the Panhandle, who recently experienced the largest wildfire in Texas history. Thousands of cattle were killed in the blazes, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. Power lines knocked down during high winds sparked the fires.

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