Mexico has one of the highest per-capita rates of egg consumption in the world, and a lethal outbreak of avian flu earlier this summer has the whole country on an egg hunt. In June, an outbreak of the AH7N3 bird flu virus in the Pacific coast state of Jalisco wiped out almost 11 million chickens, leading to a national shortage of eggs.
Mexican families have seen the cost of eggs almost double over the past month, from less than $1.50 to more than $3 per kilogram, and in some places the price has reportedly tripled. (A 1kg-carton usually has 16 to 18 eggs.) Nearly half of Mexico’s population of 112 million lives under the poverty line, making them particularly vulnerable to drastic jumps in egg prices.
In response, the Mexican government has lifted tariffs on eggs and imported 906 tons from the U.S.; more might be imported from Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica. In Mexico City, the government has been selling subsidized eggs out of the backs of trucks. Meanwhile, President Felipe Calderón announced emergency funding of $230 million to restore egg production and replace the hens that were culled in June.
Eggs not only serve as an inexpensive source of protein but also as a staple of the Mexican diet. (Think of huevos rancheros, the popular breakfast dish, or huevos a la Mexicana, Mexican-style scrambled eggs.) Last year, each Mexican ate roughly 50 pounds of eggs, or somewhere between 350 to 400 eggs, according to the country’s National Union of Poultry Farmers.