The avian influenza that's affecting millions of birds nationwide is also disrupting the fast-food industry. More than 48 million birds have been affected with the flu since December.
This outbreak is causing an egg shortage that's forcing restaurants to modify their menus and improvise. The latest chain to take a hit because of the increase in the egg prices is the popular Chinese fast casual chain Panda Express.
The chain removed eggs from its fried rice and replaced them with corn in June, according to CBS San Francisco. The eatery was also forced to discontinue its hot and sour soup temporarily. It's also looking like the eggs will not return to its menu anytime soon.
“We have been informed by suppliers that the egg shortage will last between 18 and 24 months. Egg prices have definitely increase [sic] for those who are able to purchase them,"a Panda Express spokesperson told CBS. "In our case, the number of suppliers from whom we can purchase liquid is extremely limited, which jeopardizes our ability to consistently purchase safe and reliable product.”
Panda Express isn't the first chain to turn to alternatives for eggs. Many restaurants simply can't keep up with the high raise in prices.
"In June, producer prices for eggs for fresh use surged 71.7 percent in price from May. Consumer prices are also jumping with one USDA report for daily New York eggs showing large Grade A and USDA Grade A egg prices at major chains rising to a range of $1.99 to $3.49 Friday from $1.99 to $2.79 to a year ago," according to CNBC.
In early June, another company implemented changes. The San Antonio-based fast food chain Whataburger faced major backlash after it was forced to shorten its breakfast window due to the shortage. Around three weeks later, the restaurant announced it would resume normal breakfast hours.
"We know it’s been a tough couple of weeks for our customers, but we’re really grateful for their support while we worked to build up our egg supply,” said Whataburger COO Dino Del Nano in a press release.
Last week another popular chain, Rita's, announced that it was temporarily replacing its frozen custard, which contains eggs, with soft serve ice cream. The company does not guarantee that its prices will not be affected as pricing is at individual franchisees discretion.
The switch has been met with mixed responses on Twitter.
Soft serve is cool but I LIVED for the custard . My main reason to always go to Rita's— IG: Mocha_Cocha (@Mocha_Cocha) July 13, 2015
Rita's changing their frozen custard to soft serve is prob the worst thing that could've happened this summer— اليشا (@ali_dupont) July 11, 2015
Rita's new soft serve is amazing 🍦— Lauren Zuchowski (@laurrrx0O) July 15, 2015
Rita's is replacing their custard with soft serve and I'm really not ok right now— Robin Karns (@robin_karns) July 9, 2015
The shortage is even affecting large grocers as many of the stores' items contain eggs, especially their bakeries. Publix is expecting cost increases. "The recent avian influenza outbreak has had a nationwide impact on the supply and availability of both turkey and egg products. Certain items may be temporarily discontinued until we have an adequate inventory," a Publix spokesperson said in an email statement to News-Press.
Last month another Texas-based grocer H-E-B instated a new policy that only 3 dozen eggs can be purchased per customer, according to the Houston Press. Post Holdings, a large packaged food company that owns popular brands like Raisin Bran and Honey Bunches of Oats, announced at the end of June that the company was affected by the flu.
"A third Company owned chicken flock in Nebraska has tested positive for AI. This brings the total affected supply to approximately 35 percent of the Company's volume commitments as determined prior to the recognition of force majeure," according to a Post Holdings press release.
The company said that it's future remained uncertain because of the outbreak.