Social media users claim they’ve found a new culprit for skyrocketing egg prices: chicken feed.
The theory gained steam in recent weeks on Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, with some users reporting that their chickens had stopped laying eggs and speculating that common chicken feed products were the cause. Some have gone a step further to suggest that feed producers intentionally downsized their products to deter backyard egg production, forcing people to buy eggs at inflated prices.
One Facebook user wrote, “One of the nation’s largest egg producers has entered into an agreement with one of the nation’s largest feed producers to change their feed formula so that it contains enough protein and minerals for your chickens.” Don’t be.” One post was shared over 2,000 times. “They’re now jacking up the price of eggs to make bank.”
But poultry experts say there is no evidence for such claims. Here’s a closer look at the facts.
Claim: Chicken feed companies have modified their products to prevent backyard chickens from laying eggs and increase demand for commercial eggs.
Fact: US egg prices have more than doubled in grocery stores over the past year due to the bird flu outbreak, combined with increased labor and supply costs.
Some backyard chicken owners may separately find their chickens performing poorly, but experts say the issues are unrelated. While feed quality can affect chickens’ ability to lay eggs, state agriculture officials told The Associated Press they haven’t heard of any widespread issues with feed affecting egg production, and many Major feed suppliers say they have not changed their formulas.
Experts say there are far more mundane explanations for the low production of poultry.
“Is there a wider conspiracy? No, there is no overarching conspiracy,” said Todd Applegate, professor of poultry science at the University of Georgia. “Beyond feed, there are many, maybe even more, things from management and from the bird’s environment that create different things that will either stop or reduce its production.”
The Associated Press has reported that of the 58 million birds killed last year to control the bird flu virus, more than 43 million were egg-laying hens.
“Due to high tract avian influenza, we have had to cull millions of laying hens. And when you take that many chickens out of production, there are fewer eggs,” said Ken Anderson, a poultry industry expert at North Carolina State University. “And when eggs are scarce, the price goes up.”
Democratic US Sen. Jack Reid of Rhode Island and a farmer-led advocacy group have called for an investigation into possible egg price gouging by producers. But there is no evidence that altered chicken feed is driving up egg prices.
Agriculture officials in several states, including North Carolina and Georgia, told the AP they have received no reports of widespread problems.
“Our members haven’t really heard any accurate reports of any correlation between feed and egg production,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. ,
However, Therrell said authorities have been questioning people who have seen the claims related to the feed on social media.
Experts say other factors may explain individual reports of low backyard egg yields. Applegate said limited daylight hours in winter can reduce or stop hens’ egg production, as can exposure to cold weather. Improperly stored feed can be compromised and can affect egg production as well.
“Backyard flock producers do not necessarily follow lighting programs designed to support peak egg production,” Anderson said. “Many backyard herders use natural daylight.”
Several social media users claimed that specific feed products, such as Purina Animal Nutrition and Tractor Supply, offered by a chain of agricultural supply stores, were at fault. Some said that after they changed feed or made their own, their hens started laying again. But the companies deny that their products are responsible for this.
“We confirm that no changes have been made to the formulations in Purina poultry feed products,” Brooke Dillon, a spokeswoman for Land O’Lakes, the parent company of Purina Animal Nutrition, wrote in an email. Similarly, Mary Winn Pilkington, a spokeswoman for Tractor Supply, said that its suppliers have confirmed that “there has been no change in the nutritional profile” of their feed products.
Feed products have been recalled in the past for improper nutrition, according to Adam Fahrenholz, associate professor of feed milling at North Carolina State University. But feed nutrition issues, such as how insufficient protein can reduce egg production, found no merit in online claims of a massive conspiracy.
“I don’t find it plausible from the point of view of a deliberate, large-scale, you know, planned event,” Fahrenholz said.
The conspiracy that companies are deliberately trying to sabotage the backyard egg supply has gained an audience thanks to widespread mistrust of government officials and experts, said Yotam Ofir, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo who focuses on misinformation. Is. He said that in times of social anxiety it is common for people to look for scapegoats. The claims join other recent conspiracy theories alleging a coordinated effort to deplete the country’s food supply.
“The official narrative reminds us that we are sometimes vulnerable to the randomness of nature,” Ofir said.
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