The Great Egg Crisis hits Mexico

MEXICO CITY — It is the Great Mexican Egg Crisis, and it will not be over easy, though there will be puns, especially in the Mexican press, which is cracking a lot of jokes.

But seriously: The public here is faced with an extreme shortage of eggs in a country that has the highest-per-capita egg consumption on the planet.

Highest being 22.4 kilograms (about 50 pounds) per person in 2011, or more than 400 eggs a year, depending on the size of the egg, according to Mexico’s National Poultry Industry.

There has been hoarding, price spikes and two-hour lines to buy eggs. Some retail outlets have been forced to limit how many cartons a day a customer can buy.

American hens have been called to the rescue.

An outbreak of AH7N3 avian flu virus is partly responsible. The deadly bird flu was detected in June on poultry farms in the Pacific coast state of Jalisco, and Mexican farmers and the government acted with lethal authority and slaughtered 11 million chickens to prevent its spread.

Within weeks of the outbreak, 90 additional million hens were vaccinated against the virus, with a second round of inoculation now underway.

Because of the mass culling, and stoked by price gouging and the soaring cost of chicken feed, the price of eggs has doubled this summer in Mexico, on average from less than 20 pesos to more than 40 pesos a kilo, or from $1.50 to $3. There’s about 16 or so eggs in a kilo.

This might not sound like much (unless you’re a family of five eating 2,000 eggs a year),