Yesterday, in the spirit of “taking one for the team” for my roommates, I woke up at 8 a.m., hopped on the 51B bus and — in a half-awake state — went to Safeway all in the name of buying an elusive carton of eggs. Even with the effort of an early-morning grocery store escapade, the Safeway eggs section was already decimated and four other shoppers were going in for the prize when I reached the aisle. I successfully made it out with two cartons, a whopping 24 eggs, feeling like a gold medalist.
On the bus ride home, I saw a TikTok claiming proof of income was having eggs in your fridge. Behind me, two students were discussing the allotment of eggs in their apartment. It almost felt like a battle, with a common enemy of … a lack of a grocery store staple?
An egg shortage has been noticeably affecting the country for the past month, but it actually stems back to an outbreak of avian flu that began a year ago, in February 2022. Since then, egg supplies have dwindled and prices have steadily risen, becoming most noticeable on shelves and in wallets over the winter.
The egg shortage gives us a window into seeing the impacts of commercial farms on animals, as well as the environment. The inhumane treatment of animals raised for their food production value is vast, and is an issue that is closely linked to climate change.
Chickens are raised in close quarters, creating breeding grounds for diseases, such as avian flu, to spread. As temperatures rise as a consequence of global warming, viruses are more likely to rise and become rampant, in a similar manner to COVID-19. Even as this bout of avian flu is contained, the likelihood of another outbreak, or a new and more harmful infection, increases as the earth warms.
Climate change will increase the occurrence of disease in our food supplies, and the infrastructure of chicken farms is only adding to the problem. Egg production is highly polluting, from raising poultry to transporting eggs, and also takes a large amount of resources, such as water and land.
How does land become an issue while raising small birds? Although the farms where poultry lives can be kept relatively small, the territory used to grow the feed for the animals is quite expansive. Soybeans are most commonly used for feed, and, in fact, 37% of soy grown worldwide goes to producing food for poultry.
These croplands continue to expand as demand for eggs, and other animal products, increases, perpetuating the deforestation of biodiverse ecosystems and the use of pesticides and fertilizers that pollute the air and water.
In mapping the egg shortage, there’s a lot of potential to start a murder investigation board, with a red string running from pin to pin, from disease to resource use to detrimental agricultural systems. The root of the problem isn’t the person who beats you to the last carton or Safeway or even the chickens, but the much larger systems that continue to use practices that degrade the environment. In short, as long as food production industries continue using unsustainable practices, shortages in the food chain will keep arising with greater frequency.
So, unluckily for us, an end to the shortage in the near future isn’t promising. And, as spring nears, wild bird migrations are likely to cause an increase in avian flu cases once again. While we may not be able to stop the spread of diseases, we can do our part to fight to change the production processes used in chicken farming.
It can be as simple as paying attention to legislation related to agriculture or sending an email to your representative voicing your support for practices that are climate conscious. If you are able, even just shopping at the farmers market occasionally supports local farms that don’t participate in mass production.
The Daily Clog wishes everyone the best of luck in the hunt for eggs in the coming weeks and months. As fun as having an apartment pet may be, hopefully we won’t all have to turn to raising chickens out of our rooms.