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Egg Empires Are Coming as Bird Flu, Cage-Free Rules Drive Up Farm Costs

Efforts on animal rights are speeding up consolidation in the egg industry, driving small farmers out of business



Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

It’s becoming too expensive for some farmers to produce eggs as costs soar due to everything from bird flu to cage-free mandates — and that’s paving the way for giant companies to get even bigger.

Deadly avian influenza is spreading across the U.S. and is hitting commercial egg farms, forcing farmers to kill millions of hens. Feeding the birds is also pricey, with grain costs around decade-highs, partly due to supply chain chaos caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, ​​​​​the U.S. egg industry is making a historic shift toward producing mostly cage-free eggs, a move that’s better for chickens but bad for small farmers who can’t afford to make the costly transition.