Inflation has made every American’s trip to the grocery store more painful, but the price of eggs seems to be rising the fastest.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of a dozen eggs has grown from $1.47 to $4.82 in one year.
Jennifer Ramsey with the Montana Wildlife Health Lab, says wild birds with the virus have been found in every corner of the state. The sick birds, primarily ducks and raptors, can easily spread the virus to commercially farmed chickens. It only takes one sick bird to cause a major outbreak.
“We have definitely seen a lot of mortality of wild birds in Montana,” Ramsey said in an email, “We have tested about 200 birds to date, and about 42% of those tested positive. Now we’ve also seen cases of HPAI infection in a red fox, striped skunks, and a few grizzly bears.”
Birders with the Five Valleys Audubon Society have been keeping an eye on bird numbers in Western Montana for decades, and while searching for raptors in the Mission Valley, member Larry Weeks said everyone needs to pay attention to the health of birds.
“They are a part of our environment, our ecosystem,” Weeks said. “We should all be concerned about disappearing birds.”
We joined Weeks on a field trip around the Mission Valley and we saw 30 species of birds, including about 50 raptors. Weeks said he expected about twice that number.
This mirrors a trend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have tracked across the nation, estimating at least 6,200 wild birds have died from the virus.
The virus has farmers like Chase Walkup at Mission Mountain Organic Eggs taking drastic action. Locking up his flock of 8,000 chickens in quarantine, similar to the pandemic lockdowns we all know.
“It’s not ideal,” Walkup said. “We do everything we can to keep the chickens healthy.”
For the eggs to be organic, the chickens must not eat any food with chemicals, and not be locked up in cages. Being cooped up during a Montana winter is normal, but when it’s warm, they’d get to go outside and enjoy the fields.
Walkup said only three people have been able to enter the farm since the virus was first found in Montana. Even the clothes and boots worn in the facility must stay on the farm. Walkup has not had a single case of the virus in his flock but has had to raise the price of his product.
“Everything we buy from our cartons to the birds themselves, the food they eat… it’s all gone way up,” Walkup said. “We’re making less money now than before the avian flu started, even with the price increases”
Ramsey said the jury is still out on what may happen this spring. As infected birds migrate, they may bring the disease with them.
“It’s uncertain what will happen with the virus itself,” Ramsey said. “Whether it might be around for the long-term, whether susceptibility of wild birds will change, etc.”