With so much going on in the world, many people may not have heard about the Avian Flu sweeping across the world, infecting and leading to the deaths of millions of chickens, as well as wild birds. Just this week, Pennsylvania’s first reported cases cropped up in Lancaster County. So far, very few human infections have occurred, and those have primarily been among people in very close contact with infected birds–no human infections have occurred here in the U.S., according to the CDC. However, millions of birds raised for their eggs and meat have been killed to prevent the spread of the disease, and it has infected and spread among waterfowl and other bird species worldwide, posing a potential danger to wild bird populations.
Poultry Growing Conditions are Breeding Grounds for Diseases
Some people may think, “well, disease happens. We’re dealing with a human pandemic, it only makes sense that pandemics would impact animals as well.” It’s worth remembering that even our own current Coronavirus pandemic may have originated from an animal virus spreading to humans as a result of wild animals and livestock being in inhumane, crowded conditions. Readers may remember that in June of 2020, blogger Aimee Douglass wrote about the next pandemic and its link to cruel and inhumane treatment of livestock animals.
It’s no secret that the number of poultry animals being killed right now directly relates to the way these animals are raised–in very crowded conditions, with limited diets, bred to grow too large too fast and produce too many eggs, and not bred to fight diseases. In these crowded and filthy conditions, diseases can and will spread very rapidly, meaning that just one infected hen can require the euthenasia of all of the chickens living near her–hence, millions of dead birds already in response to this outbreak.
This disease is decimating livestock and threatening wild birds, too, but what about its impact on humans? Many people may feel sad about the loss of bird life, both domestic and wild, but if the disease isn’t impacting people, will they feel any impact? Well, of course, there is always the danger that the disease could spread to humans. As it infects more and more birds, it has more and more opportunities to mutate, just like COVID-19. But even now, many American families are feeling the impact on their wallets, too.
What’s that Got to Do with the Price of Eggs?
Photo by stevepb on Pixabay
A few months ago, I wrote about eating a vegan diet on a budget. At that time, eggs were rising in price, but were still a fairly affordable protein source that was accessible to many. Egg alternatives like the tofu scramble I mentioned in the meal plan were more about affordable ways to avoid eggs for ethical reasons. But now, the price of eggs is on the rise as livestock are executed in mass numbers. Even as the cost of eggs goes up, commercially available egg alternatives like Just Egg are getting significantly cheaper and more accessible. For example, my local Giant Eagle stocks Just Egg for $4.49 (as of April 18th), about the same price as a dozen organic eggs ($4.29-$6.99, depending on the brand, as of April 18th). As the Avian Flu continues to spread and egg prices continue to rise, these alternatives make more and more financial sense.
And of course, the premature death of all of these chickens and turkeys also means that chicken and turkey will continue to rise in price. Because of the cramped conditions these chickens live in and the amount of meat that can be produced for a relatively small amount of resources, chicken has historically been another budget-friendly protein source for families worldwide, but particularly here in the U.S. The price of these birds’ flesh will likely also continue to go up.
This is the time, friends, to give a vegan diet a chance. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a vegan, but a vegetarian who tries to eat vegan as often as possible. I mention that as a reminder that helping animals isn’t about being perfect; it’s about doing as much as you can. Now, you’ve got a reminder about just how much these birds suffer and what the consequences of their suffering can be. Not only that, but you have a financial incentive, too, to cut poultry flesh and eggs out of your diet–or at least to cut back significantly on how much you eat.
Can Anything Else Fill the Place of Eggs and Chicken on Our Plates?
There are several ways to fill eggs’ and chickens’ places on your plate that will mean that you won’t even miss them. Tofu scrambles are super popular. My partner, who is an omnivore, had one at Pittsburgh’s B52 this weekend (we wanted to visit before the location closed permanently, but were thrilled to learn that some of their menu will remain available at Allegro Hearth in Squirrel Hill). She loved the dish and while she said it didn’t taste exactly like eggs, the taste and texture satisfied her breakfast craving just fine. While I don’t recommend ordering one from a vegan restaurant if your motivation is saving money, you can instead make one. They’re very easy and versatile. Here’s one that’s got a southwest flavor from my favorite vegan food blog, Minimalist Baker, but there are hundreds of variations that you can try. Remember, if you decide to introduce a spice like black salt (kala namak) to give your scramble that eggy smell and taste, check a local Indian grocer for a better price.
Alternatives for Cooking & Baking
What about for all you bakers out there? Vegan baking got a recent boost from Vegan Great British Bake Off contestant Freya, but you don’t need her skill level to make tasty treats vegan. There are so many inexpensive ways to eliminate eggs from a baking recipe. They include aqua faba (which is the water from a can of chickpeas that you would otherwise throw away, so this is basically a free ingredient), flax seed (I get mine from Aldi), silken tofu, or even simple shelf-stable things like pumpkin puree or applesauce or things you might throw away like overripe bananas or brown (overripe) avocado (which can be frozen and used when you need them in a recipe).
And if you want the convenience of an egg substitute, you can certainly purchase something like Just Egg–as I mentioned above, the price is pretty comparable to eggs nowadays. You can also make your own with a recipe like this one, which you can store in the refrigerator for up to a week for use each morning.
When it comes to chicken substitutes, refer back to the Vegan on a Budget blog–you can go the meat substitute route, but I prefer to just replace meat in recipes with well-cooked tofu or legumes like chickpeas. This General Tso’s Tofu is a personal favorite. There are a million ideas out there–don’t be afraid to look around! The world of vegetarian and vegan cooking has really taken off as people have learned about the sustainability of plant-focused diets, so you’re sure to find inspiration for all kinds of recipes you might never have tried if you relied on chicken for weeknight meals.
Get Help to Cut Back on Eggs and Chicken: Join Get Healthy, Pittsburgh!
Think you can’t live without eggs or poultry flesh? Give it a try for a week. You can even sign up for Get Healthy Pittsburgh!, where you’ll learn more about the potential health and environmental benefits of a plant-based lifestyle and have the support of other Pittsburghers trying to make a positive change in their lives. If you’re worried that the price to participate won’t fit into your already-stretched budget, apply for the scholarship program to participate for a significantly reduced cost. Healthy, sustainable, cruelty-free living should be accessible to everyone, and we are dedicated to making sure that it is.