Bird flu costs pile up as outbreak enters second year

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. slaughter / ˈslɔ tər / (v.) – to kill animals for their meat

    A dozen pigs were slaughtered for the feast.

  2. looming / ˈlu mɪŋ / (adj.) – likely to happen soon, usually when describing an unpleasant event

    The local government warned the residents to prepare for a looming storm.

  3. no end in sight / noʊ ɛnd ɪn saɪt / (idiom) – used to say that one cannot see the end of something

    I’ve been working on my research paper for two years now with no end in sight.

  4. shoot up / ʃut ʌp / (phrasal v.) – to quickly grow in size or number

    Our new marketing strategy seems effective because our sales shot up this month.

  5. price gouging / praɪs ˈɡaʊ dʒɪŋ / (n.) – the act of making people pay more money than they should

    The company is under investigation for price gouging.


Read the text below.

The ongoing bird flu outbreak has cost the government roughly $661 million and added to consumers’ pain at the grocery store after more than 58 million birds were slaughtered to limit the spread of the virus.

In addition to the cost of the government response that the USDA tallied up and rising prices for eggs, chicken and turkey, farmers who raise those animals have easily lost more than $1 billion, said an agricultural economist, though no one has calculated the total cost to the industry yet.

The bad news is that with the outbreak entering its second year and the spring migratory season looming, there is no end in sight. And there is little farmers can do beyond the steps they have already taken to try to keep the virus out.

Unlike past years, the virus that causes highly pathogenic avian influenza found a way to survive through the heat of last summer, leading to a rise in cases reported in the fall.

In the current outbreak, 58.4 million birds have been slaughtered on more than 300 commercial farms in 47 states. That is because any time the virus is detected, the entire flock on that farm — which can number in the millions — must be killed to limit the spread of the disease. Only Hawaii, Louisiana and West Virginia have yet to report a case of bird flu. Iowa — the nation’s biggest egg producer — leads the nation with nearly 16 million birds slaughtered.

Egg prices shot up to $4.82 a dozen in January from $1.93 a year earlier, according to the latest government figures. That spike prompted calls for a price-gouging investigation although the industry maintains that the combination of bird flu and significantly higher feed, fuel and labor costs is what’s driving prices so high.

The price for a pound of chicken breast was $4.32 in January. That’s down slightly from last fall when the price peaked at $4.75, but it is up significantly from the year before when chicken breasts were selling for $3.73 per pound.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • As a consumer, what comes into your mind when you hear news about rising food prices? Discuss.
  • Egg prices shot up to $4.82 a dozen in January from $1.93 a year earlier. What do you think people should do to cope with the price increase (ex. use alternative ingredients)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Are there reported cases of bird flu in your country? Do you think it’s possible for your government to control the spread of the avian flu virus? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • How can the government better support farmers and consumers during disease outbreaks? What policies or programs could be put in place to help farmers recover their losses and ensure that consumers have access to affordable food? Discuss.