eggsThe price of eggs used by food manufacturers has more than tripled in recent weeks, largely due to the outbreak of bird flu spreading across Iowa, the nation’s number-one egg-producing state.

Avian flu has affected more than 21-million egg-laying hens in Iowa so far, with more operations being added to the list almost daily. U.S.D.A. poultry economist Alex Melton says food company officials are worried about supply.

Melton says, “When there is a scare in any sort of national market for any commodity, you often see a sharp increase in price followed by a tapering as people are able to take more stock and get more information.” Melton says it’s hard to say how high costs will eventually climb, since no one knows when the avian flu outbreaks will stop. Eggs used in food processing cost 64-cents a dozen back in April, but now the price is over $2.54 a dozen.

Melton says prices have started to taper, but stabilizing costs depend on the egg industry’s ability to replace and sustain the current flock. Melton says, “Egg producers can take different actions to try to extend their productivity by either keeping a laying hen in action longer and speeding up repopulation of barns with new pullets.” Roughly ten-percent of the egg-laying hens in the U.S. have been affected by avian flu and more than one-third of Iowa’s birds.

The latest two probable cases in Iowa were announced Tuesday in commercial egg-laying operations in Adair and Webster counties. The Adair County operation has 975-thousand birds, while the facility in Webster County has 160,000. If confirmed, it will take the total number of outbreaks statewide to 66.

State ag officials say, so far, more than 19-million commercial layers and pullets have been euthanized in Iowa. An outbreak at the Rembrandt Enterprises egg facility in the northwest Iowa town of Rembrandt earlier this month led to more than 230 workers being laid off.