High egg prices continue to be a problem for consumers as inflationary pressures combined with a strain of avian influenza have limited production.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate explained why the avian flu had hit egg production much harder than other parts of the poultry industry.

According to Pate, the only solution to avian flu is to depopulate poultry farms, which in farms for egg production comes at a much higher cost.

"I get asked about the cost of table eggs," he said. "Poultry prices have been fairly stable. We've got plenty of broilers, with Alabama being number two in the nation in total production. But we've done a pretty good job here in Alabama in biosecurity and really have kept it out. So the problem has been – I'm going to call them table egg production, the egg we eat – that's not really in the South so much. Whereas we have done a great job here, it's really been in that Ohio, sort of Midwest."

"Our chicken houses tend to have about 20,000 chickens," Pate continued. "So four of them would be 80[,000] or 100,000 chickens. So, you get it, the only solution to it is you go in and depopulate it. It will kill them all because it is so highly pathogenic that within 24 or 48 hours, it'll kill them all. The only solution is to go in and depopulate. Well, table egg production — might a million chickens at one site. I've seen statistics that show that 20-25% of the table egg production had to be depopulated because of the avian influenza in other parts of the country. One operation two weeks ago, 3 million chickens at one site. With Easter coming up, don't look for eggs to get cheaper anytime soon."

"But avian influenza is what is driving it all," he added. "It's sort of like you process a broiler chicken, one person eats it, or three or four people eat it, it's gone. Well, you take a chick that is producing table eggs. Well, that chicken is laying 24 eggs a month after month after month. You take it out of production, well, you've sort of taken a machine away. So it takes you three, four months to grow a chicken back, but you don't have so many eggs being raised to replace those. The system is not built to have that much excess capacity to replace all of those chickens you've had to depopulate. So, yeah, I think that's going to be with us a little while."

Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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