Study Claims Chicken Feed is to Blame for the Egg Shortage

Social media users claim to have discovered a new cause of skyrocketing egg prices: chicken feed.

In recent weeks, the theory gained traction on Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, with some users reporting that their hens had stopped laying eggs and speculating that common chicken feed products were to blame. Some even suggested that feed manufacturers purposefully made their products deficient in order to discourage backyard egg production, forcing people to buy eggs at exorbitant prices.



“One of the largest egg producers in the country cut a deal with one of the largest feed producers in the country to change their feed formula so it no longer contains enough protein and minerals for your chickens to produce eggs,” One Facebook user posted a message that was shared over 2,000 times. “They are now price gouging eggs to make bank.”


However, poultry experts say there is no evidence to support such claims. Let's take a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM: Chicken feed manufacturers have altered their products to prevent backyard hens from laying eggs, thereby increasing demand for commercial eggs.

THE FACTS: Egg prices in grocery stores in the United States have more than doubled in the last year due to an outbreak of bird flu, as well as rising labor and supply costs.


Some backyard chicken owners may have discovered their chickens underperforming independently, but experts say the issues are unrelated. While feed quality can affect hens' egg-laying abilities, state agricultural officials told The Associated Press that they haven't heard of any widespread problems with feed affecting egg production, and several major feed suppliers haven't changed their formulas.

According to experts, there are far more mundane explanations for the poultry's meager output.

“Is there a broad conspiracy? No, there’s not a broad conspiracy,” Todd Applegate, a poultry science professor at the University of Georgia, agreed. “Beyond feed, there are a lot, probably even more so, things from the management and from the bird’s environment that creates different things that would cause her to either go out of production or lower her production.”

According to The Associated Press, more than 43 million of the 58 million birds slaughtered in the last year to control the bird flu virus were egg-laying chickens.



“Because of high path avian influenza, we’ve had to depopulate millions of laying hens. And when you take that many chickens out of production, there’s fewer eggs,” North Carolina State University poultry industry specialist Ken Anderson said. “And when there’s fewer eggs, the price goes up.”

Democratic Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and a farmer-led advocacy group have called for an investigation into possible egg price gouging by producers. However, there is no evidence that altered chicken feed is causing high egg prices.

Agricultural officials in several states, including North Carolina and Georgia, told the Associated Press that there have been no reports of widespread problems.

“Our members have not really heard any exact reports of any correlation between the feed and egg production,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of the Association of American Feed Control Officials, a coalition of local, state, and federal agencies in charge of animal feed regulation.



However, Therrell noted that officials have received inquiries from people who saw feed-related claims on social media.

Other factors, experts say, could explain individual reports of low backyard egg yields. According to Applegate, limited daylight hours in the winter, as well as cold weather, can reduce or stop hen egg production. Improperly stored feed can become contaminated, affecting egg production as well.

“Backyard flock producers don’t necessarily follow lighting programs to support peak egg production,” Anderson said. “A lot of backyard flock people utilize natural daylight.”


Many social media users claimed that certain feed products, such as those sold by Purina Animal Nutrition and Tractor Supply, a farm supply store chain, were to blame. Some reported that their hens began laying again after switching feeds or making their own. The companies, however, deny that their products are to blame.

“We confirm there have not been formulation changes to Purina poultry feed products,” In an email, Brooke Dillon, a spokesperson for Land O'Lakes, the parent company of Purina Animal Nutrition, stated. Similarly, Tractor Supply spokesperson Mary Winn Pilkington stated that its suppliers confirmed there has been an incident. “No change to the nutritional profile” of the feed products.

According to Adam Fahrenholz, an associate professor of feed milling at North Carolina State University, feed products have been recalled in the past due to improper nutrition. While feed nutrition issues, such as a lack of protein, can reduce egg production, he found no merit in online claims of a massive conspiracy.

“I don’t find it plausible from the standpoint of an intentional, large scale, you know, planned event at all,” Fahrenholz said.

According to Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor of misinformation at the University at Buffalo, the conspiracy that feed companies are deliberately sabotaging backyard egg supplies found an audience due to a general distrust of government officials and experts. During times of social anxiety, he says, it's common for people to look for scapegoats. The allegations join other recent allegations of a coordinated effort to undermine the nation's food supply.

“The official narrative is kind of reminding us that we are sometimes vulnerable to the randomness of nature,” Ophir claimed.


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