Expect to shell out more money if you plan to buy eggs or chicken or turkey flesh anytime soon. An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza—better known as bird flu—has infected birds in at least 18 states, including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. More than 17 million chickens and turkeys have either died of the disease or been slaughtered in order to stop additional outbreaks, which spread like wildfire in filthy, extremely crowded animal factories.
This will likely push prices—already high because of inflation—up even further. According to USDA data, egg prices have shot up more than 25% over the past year. And the cost of a chicken breast rose from $3.01 to $3.63 per pound in just one week. Costs may continue to climb in the coming weeks.
Now would be a good time to stop eating eggs, chicken, turkey and other animal-derived foods—but not just because of bird flu. Choosing vegan foods is healthier, cheaper, better for the environment and, most important of all, kind to animals.
Birds pay the biggest price when humans buy eggs. Hens used for egg production are confined to dirty, cramped cages, without even enough space to stretch a single wing. Part of each bird’s sensitive beak is cut off with a hot blade—and no painkillers—to prevent them from pecking one another out of stress and desperation. And when they no longer produce enough eggs, they’re sent to the slaughterhouse, where they’re often scalded to death.
Because male birds are useless to hatcheries (since they don’t produce eggs and they’re not bred to produce the excessive flesh desired by the meat industry), the chicks are either suffocated to death or ground-up while still alive.
The best way to reduce animal suffering and the spread of animal-borne pathogens—as well as to conserve resources and combat the climate catastrophe—is to stop raising birds and other animals for food. Bird flu spreads faster because humans raise chickens and turkeys for food. The virus thrives when birds are crammed together in damp sheds with accumulated waste.
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that animal-borne pathogens can mutate and sicken humans, too. Our appetite for animal flesh and secretions has led to the spread of diseases caused by coronaviruses, bird and swine flu viruses, and other animal-borne pathogens. Birds are known to carry every single one of the 144 varieties of influenza virus, so most scientists believe that the flu always originates in birds.
If you like the taste of chicken or turkey, many companies, including Gardein, Beyond Meat and Tofurky, make delicious vegan meats. And instead of eggs, you can use bananas, applesauce, ground flaxseeds or commercial egg replacers in baked goods. For custardy dishes like quiches, puddings and mousses, soft tofu works well, and seasoned firm tofu can be used in eggless egg salad and breakfast scrambles. These and many other vegan options will save you money, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ll never catch bird flu from tofu.