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Bird flu threatens chicken, egg industries

Consumer can buy plant-based substitutes at the supermarket.

The U.S. egg industry is reeling from an outbreak of avian flu, mostly among egg-laying chickens ("State and poultry industry take precautions against bird flu," June 28).

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 48 million birds, accounting for 11 percent of the nation's egg-laying hens, have been slaughtered for fear of infection during the past few months.

The effects are far-reaching, from how we dispose of millions of potentially infected bird carcasses to stemming job losses and rapidly rising egg prices. More than 40 countries have restricted U.S. poultry imports.

Although the precise cause of the outbreak remains uncertain, the horrendous conditions in today's factory farms make egg and chicken production extremely vulnerable to disease outbreaks, and thus unsustainable.

A number of companies have stepped in to offer plant-based alternatives that closely mimic the taste, texture and cooking properties of eggs and chicken. Most are available in the frozen food sections of supermarkets.

Many of us favor replacing polluting fossil energy sources with clean renewable ones. That takes concerted national action. But every one of us has the power to effect that same transition for our food sources every time we shop.

Bob Cartier, Rockville

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