Business

Largest US egg producer temporarily halts production due to avian flu at Texas facility

NEW YORK — As avian flu continues to spread in birds across the United States, a major chicken egg manufacturer has temporarily halted production after the highly contagious disease was detected at its facilities.

Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., the nation's largest producer and distributor of fresh eggs, announced the positive test result for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at its Parmer County, Texas facility on Tuesday.

The outbreak has resulted in the loss of nearly "1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets, or approximately 3.6% of the Company’s total flock as of March 2, 2024," Cal-Maine Foods announced. This was due to guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on poultry infections.

The company followed U.S. Department of Agriculture protocols in shutting down operations and said it's "working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers."

While there are "robust biosecurity" measures in place, the egg producer said "no farm is immune from HPAI" which is "still present in the wild bird population and the extent of possible future outbreaks, with heightened risk during the migration seasons, cannot be predicted."

Despite a recent human infection following an outbreak at a Texas cattle farm, the risk of bird flu to the public is considered low and no person-to-person spread has occurred, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Amidst the increase in outbreaks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reminded consumers that HPAI "cannot be transmitted through safely handled and properly cooked eggs."

There is also no known risk related to HPAI associated with eggs currently in the retail market and as of time of publication, no eggs have been recalled.

Cal-Maine Foods said in the release that it's working "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 Ridgeland, Mississippi-based company produces, grades, packages, and markets fresh shell cage-free, organic, pasture-raised, free-range, and nutritionally enhanced eggs.

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