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Egg shortage causes prices to soar

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LAKESIDE, Calif. -- If you've noticed the price of eggs soaring, you're not alone.

In fact, the situation is even having an impact on a local Denny’s. One in Oceanside recently ran out of eggs.

Fewer chickens means fewer eggs, and local egg farmers say the shortage is a result of both a new state law and a devastating bird flu.

“Normally, by noon, my shelf is about halfway full of brown eggs but this is it,” said Frank Hilliker of Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs in Lakeside.

“Unfortunately, right now for the consumer, it’s a perfect storm. At least in California you have a little bit of a Prop 2 lingering factor still there; obviously the avian flu, which is the largest driver, and then you also have the fact that this is the time of year when a lot of farmers depopulate their flocks and bring in new chickens for October through Easter time,” Hilliker said.

Frank said the biggest issue has been the outbreak of the bird flu in the Midwest. The epidemic has reduced flocks by more than 47 million. Iowa, the biggest producer of eggs, has lost 30 million.

“The avian flu knocked out 15 percent of the nation’s egg production, and if you take 15 percent of any one commodity off the market, prices are going to go up. That’s all there is to it,” Hilliker said.

He said in addition, California’s Prop 2 legislation, which requires more space for chickens, isn’t helping.

“We’re in the process of changing over to cage-free but I would have a building previously that would have 5,000 chickens in it in cages, and now I’ve only got 2,000 chickens in it because you have to give them more room,” Hilliker said.

But Hilliker, like any good farmer, is an optimist who is looking forward to next year.

“I think things are going to turn around, it’s just going to take a little time…maybe in a month, two months, maybe next year. But it’s not going to be like this forever,” Hilliker said.

Those having trouble finding eggs should shop at local mom-and-pop stores or smaller grocery outlets, Hilliker said. A lot of the big box stores are supplied by Midwestern farmers.

As far as egg prices go right now, you’ll be paying more. The cost is anywhere from 10 to 40 percent higher than they were last year.

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