Nearly 6 million egg-laying hens were lost to bird flu outbreaks in Iowa and Minnesota in recent weeks, including 1.3 million chickens culled at a Meeker County egg operation.

That's the largest toll on a single Minnesota poultry farm since the current strain of avian influenza started circulating more than two years ago. Previously, nearly a million egg-laying hens were lost at a Wright County farm in November.

Hopkins-based Michael Foods reported the loss of 5.7 million birds Wednesday, saying the number represents about 14% of parent company Post Holdings' egg supply. Michael Foods processes eggs for restaurants and other food service customers.

Post said in a news release it doesn't anticipate a major financial impact, but that it "does not incorporate a significant expansion of avian influenza within Post's network, the impact of which is uncertain."

Egg prices jumped dramatically to around $5 per dozen at the end of 2022 as a result of bird flu losses, though several egg producers reported record profits in that time. Prices have again been climbing in recent months and nationwide averaged $2.86 per dozen last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More attention has been paid lately to avian influenza, or H5N1, in cows after positive cases popped up in several states, a dairy worker in Texas and one Michigan were infected, and inactive traces of the virus were found in milk. No cattle in Minnesota have tested positive for the virus, according to the state Board of Animal Health, though the industry is on high alert.

After a relatively quiet start to the year in terms of avian influenza outbreaks in poultry, several Minnesota turkey growers reported outbreaks last week. About 80,000 turkeys were lost across three sites, more than had been reported in all of 2024 so far, according to the animal health board.

Minnesota is the nation's leading turkey producer and is in a major bird migration flyway. Waterfowl that carry bird flu without symptoms can easily spread the virus to other birds through the air. Federal health authorities say the virus does not pose a threat to the nation's food supply, and the risk of human infection remains very low.