Restaurants and grocery stores are feeling the severity of the current egg shortage issue through increased prices and fewer deliveries. Those yolky breakfast foods are popular among the American population, which means that even if they're expensive, people will pay higher prices. However, the supply chain reaches much further than people's favorite diners. The health care sector also uses eggs for a variety of purposes, from feeding their patients to creating vaccines. Luckily, while some industries have faced setbacks, the medical field isn't letting the avian flu affect it too heavily and has taken measures to ensure they have the eggs it requires.
Hospitals see effects of egg shortage
You can order eggs in various forms - scrambled, fried, poached, etc. However, those delectable dishes don't just taste good. While they've received a lot of criticism in the past, eggs actually have many health benefits. According to The Huffington Post contributor John Berardi, egg yolks contain 90 percent of the calcium, vitamins, iron, zinc, omega-3s and phosphorous you need to stay healthy. They can help people reduce inflammation and weight, prevent heart disease and diabetes and improve blood cholesterol levels.
Eggs are one of the foods that are abundant in hospital settings. They're used in various recipes and can be customized to fit patients' needs. They are a staple in residents' diets because of their high nutritious value. Unfortunately, health care facilities have had to alter their menus to make up for the egg shortage and their accompanying prices, Modern Healthcare explained. The cost of 15 dozen shell eggs jumped from $18 before the shortage to $37 during it. Unlike consumers who have options, patients, particularly those in long-term care, may only be able to eat certain meals, eggs potentially being one of them.
"It's a very real issue, because some of the largest (manufacturing) facilities that have been hit are the ones that are very heavy in institutional foodservice," Julie Jones, director of nutrition at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, told the source.
Unidine Corporation, which oversees 30 U.S. hospital kitchens, has continued to place regular orders, but has cut back on the frequency in which the company uses the ingredient so it has a stockpile, Modern Healthcare explained. Using this method, the company hasn't seen too many setbacks, but others may not have the same experience.
Eggs needed for vaccine creation
In health care, eggs aren't just for consumption. Many of the vaccines people receive actually started out in the shelled food. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, manufacturers use millions of fertilized eggs annually just for flu vaccines. Virus strains are injected into the eggs and are incubated for several days to allow the germs to grow. The virus is then harvested and purified. While there are other means of creating vaccines and other medications, egg use is the tried-and-true method.
Fortunately, egg procurement largely hasn't been a problem for vaccine manufacturers. These companies generally maintain their own chickens, whose eggs are only used for medical purposes, Reuters explained. However, while they don't have to worry about having no eggs to use, they face threats from the avian flu. The virus can be carried in people's systems, on their clothes or on their skin. While they won't show symptoms, they can still pass the avian flu on to the animals in their care. If one bird becomes infected in these facilities, other chickens will likely eventually catch the disease as well. A contaminated lab could be detrimental for medicine.
Pharmaceutical companies have stepped up their security and are continuing to monitor the spread of the virus. Biosafety standards have been reinforced to ensure their chickens are safe as well. The FDA also regularly checks these development facilities to make sure they are in top shape, according to Modern Healthcare.
The egg shortage and the avian flu are affecting various industries in the U.S. By containing the infected birds and curbing the spread of the virus, the rest of the supply chain will hopefully remain untouched.